Growing Pains

In Cancer season

we ate boiled peanuts and drank ginger beers.

     Chewy, soft, salty, spicy, sweet.

I think we were protesting,

     or marching,

     or looting,

     or bugging,

     or redefining our pains,

the ways that this Country hurts us.

Both just graduated from college.

Should be on vacation, right?

Should be soul searching, right?

We search inside the brown bags and liquor bottles when we go out drinking,

Still under the cover of darkness.


And we search while looking up at the sky,

While laying on our backs 

in front of the police headquarters, chanting

“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot” with our faces masked.

Our identities become our masks: 

     Make sure the cameraman does not see us.

     Make sure they don’t say our names.

     Make sure they remember our trans brothers and sisters.

     Make sure you don’t get near the pepper spray.

     Make sure they never see you cry.


Drifting in and out of visibility, 

the violent code switching that a black dyke must learn to survive

is what makes us all lose our heads.

Sooner rather than later.


Black is my mask,

Sometimes for me to hide behind

and sometimes for me to hide away. 

I used to let anger envelope me but now it just drifts away. 

I hide inside my house, where I can only hope that no one will anger me today. 

Because I don’t want to die a mad black dyke.

K.E. Bell (he/him) is a Baltimore-based writer and musician. His writing has appeared in Terse Journal, Black from the Future: A Collection of Black Speculative Writing, and elsewhere. K.E. plays guitar in a noise rock band called Blk Vapor. Find him on Twitter as @kSexy420.