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Inventory of a Black Girl & Gourmet Ars Poetica

Inventory of a Black Girl

Model Made: April 27, 1992







Value in USD


2 Lungs full of broken glass When I cough little bits come loose
And scrape against my teeth
I have learned to bleed quietly


27 Bones (in right hand) Formed from statues and statistics
I vote on which ones to break


4 Failed deaths Each more urgent than the last 0


1 Mouth full of matches Only sulfur passes through these lips
Only fire is respected
I am used to swallowed ash
And burned tongue


2 Stolen songs The first, when I was born
The next, I haven’t been told


0 Deeds done right (in the world’s eyes)



Not Applicable


Gourmet Ars Poetica

My poems taste terrible, too many chewed up

Metaphors and overcooked analogies.

They need more salt, less narcissism.

More technicality, like practicing to how perfectly

Poach an egg, or be consistent with verb tenses.


I need a bigger pot with a sturdy lid

To contain this wild free verse.

Maybe throw it live in boiling water,

Like lobster.

Garnish it with pretty diction,

Say it’s modeled after the classics.


One day I’ll be the Gordon Ramsay of the page

Dragging syntax from hell into my notebook.

I’ll subvert entire stanzas into submission,

They’ll say: “Yes, poet” and “No, poet”

And “That’s not the way I’ve been taught, poet.”



Chavonn Williams Shen

Chavonn Williams Shen is a Minneapolis native and an educator. She was the first place winner for the 2017 Still I Rise grant for African American women hosted by Alternating Current Press and a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. She was also a 2017 Best of the Net Award finalist, a winner of the 2016-2017 Mentor Series in Poetry and Creative Prose through the Loft Literary Center, and a 2016 fellow through the Givens Foundation for African American Literature. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Indianapolis Review, Burningword Literary Journal, The A3 Review, Beecher's Magazine, and other publications. A Carleton College graduate, Chavonn is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing at Hamline University. [Photo by Peter Limthongviratn.]