We are delighted to present this week’s selections from the Brain Mill Press Poetry Month Contest. We received many outstanding entries, from which these pieces by Kwyn Townsend Riley and Courtney Felle stood out. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did.


by Kwyn Townsend Riley

You know you from
Chicago when
If the words
“I’m from Evanston, it’s
basically Chicago”
Offends you
Like cultural I mean
Chicago appropriation isn’t
a thing
People from the suburbs
Act as if Chicago is a
scent, or just Harold’s with
mild sauce
Act as if you can buy
You can just wake up and
look “Chicago”
People wanna be chicago
so bad
Without the trauma
Without the torment
And discontent
With our government
Then want Chicago music
Without the blues
All the Chicago food
But never help to clean up
after they eaten
Evanston is not Chicago. It
will always be a close
neighbor that never was
allowed to visit
You know you from
Chicago when
The night that Chancellor
Bennett won 3 grammy’s
You and yo mama
footworked the rest of the
Because Chance
represents the students

that got 10 days for weed
And god’s child at the
same time
A Deliquent yet Divine
That God’s children sag
their pants
Smoke weed
And love their mamas
Is what brought light back
to our cities
And the princes and
princesses who have bars
in their throat that they
were too scared to climb
Who are scared of being
creative because that
won’t pay the bills till later
Who are afraid of their
dreams because hard
work costs too much
And there aint enough
common sense to go
Chance, gave us 3
reasons to try
You know you from
chicago when
The summertime is a
trigger warning
A relapse
To sunny days and
somber moments
The hotter it gets
The wetter the concrete is
with our blood

Dont forget to say goodbye
to your friends in the
Death never looked so
Gunshots and fireworks
sound too similar to white
Because either way they
are still celebrating
While we are mourning
In the morning the news
reads off names of tens, of
hundreds of children like
Attendance sheets in
empty classrooms
Like long wait lines to
enter His Heaven
Newspapers are always
drenched with black ink
And black blood
I am used to the smell
Of the summertime
You know you from
Chicago when
“Chi Raq”
Is a trigger warning
You know you from
Chicago when
You want Trump to cash
you ousside
With all the feds
And all the gangs
I mean CPD
Because he can definitely
catch these hands
My city has been in his
mouth too many times
He has disrespected my
And nothin rhymes with
orange muthafucka for me

to curse him out with this
He act as if black panthers
wasn’t west side crazy
He act as if Chicago aint
tryna Chicago problems
With vigils and visionaries
And assata’s daughters
And youth are the truth
never the problem
If you want to solve them
Bring more books
And libraries
And schools
And whole foods on the
southside with blk ppl in it
And jobs that blk ppl can
actually make a livin from
So guns would no longer
shine with opportunity or
only option
You know you from
Chicago when
You miss Reduced Fare
You miss the old non
gentrified Hyde Park
You miss when people
said Chicago without crime
Only mentioned skyline
You know you from
Bc it spills from walk
The way you talk has enuf
blk and confidence
Ur Chicago is drenched in
ur language
Like on the guys
And on baby
And headass
Chicago is as Chicago

So we jus gonna keep on
doin what we do

About Kwyn Townsend Riley

About Kwyn

As a Chicagoan, Kwyn channels her Southside experiences into her writing. Audiences have referred to her writing as “inspirational” and “eye-opening”. Most of her poems are center on many social justice issues including racism, sexism, rape culture and gun violence. To Kwyn, poetry makes the truth sound beautiful and less painful. It serves reality a little warmer to those who are hopeless. She has released poetry videos on her youtube channel that have gone viral. Her poetry has been featured in the Huffington Post, BLAVITY, ForHarriet and a host of others. She has performed at many college campuses including but not limited to California State University at Monterey Bay, University of Cincinnati – Blue Ash and Denison University. She has also performed her poetry in Germany. She hopes by sharing her vulnerabilities that will help others with the same issues sleep better at night.

Lolita Learns To Drive

by Courtney Felle


i watch the men in their cars watching me

more than they actually watch me. i mouth


the words to all the songs on the radio but

without the o’s, without opening my lips


enough that a man could imagine himself inside.

i imagine the men inside & shudder, grimace,


widen my teeth further apart. i eat fast food

(what i can afford), lick the excess sauce off


my fingers, call my own saliva holy water. yes,

i drive eighty in a sixty & twelve in a thirty-five.


yes, i give & will give the man who will buy me

dinner road head so he doesn’t charge me, of course


i am saying & must say yes. there is a reason

i form god by taking good & subtracting


an o. in the front of the blue sedan humbert

kiss-bit me & the cops drove by. i wanted


screaming but that meant more opening. the greater

fear: forcing the world to see me as protest for it already


seeing too much of me, seeing me too much. fuck me,

humbert did not say, did not ask. fuck me up, i did not


say, i did not ask. i respond with only yes, makes me feel

better than when i say no & he does (they all do) it anyway.


in beardsley mona told me a girl should both learn

to drive & lose her virginity at sixteen, the ideal.


i told her i’d smash my pretty face to shards with an airbag

before i ever let anyone grope me in the backseat because the truth


hurt too much even then. the truth was i never learned to drive.

the truth was i’d crash every motherfucking car on this highway,


starting with this one, over the guardrails if i could.

About Courtney Felle

About Courtney


Courtney Felle imagines herself living in the liminal space between the Northeast and the Midwest. Her work currently focuses on the landscape of queerness, disability, and gender, and can be found in Blue Marble Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, and Pen 2 Paper, among other publications. In addition to writing, she edits Body Without Organs Literary Journal, reads poetry for Helen: A Lit Mag, and campaigns for congressional candidates.

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