“I Am Unsure” by Ashley Harris

Image Courtesy of Jonathan. Shared via a Creative Commons license.


I Am Unsure

Cancer can be
Watching priests burn your people’s
Books over and over until a
grandmother’s words give her grandchildren
heart burn,

I am unsure if I want to find out
how likely I am to develop
breast cancer, I know my abuela died of
a forest fire in her chest, and that spread to my
aunt who sent me presents every Christmas until it
burnt her to crisp rosary,

It could be watching
your cells that were normal
all their lives turn
against you, attack from
the inside,

A cancer is best at blending into
the times and killing us off at different
hours but staying the same
beast like racism.

Why the marches become familiar, why
no matter how much space we make with
our bodies and signs, the number of police officers in
combat gear only grow in size, those little
black boys and girls cant rid themselves
of it, no matter how smart they are or how
many dungeons they beat in Zelda,
No matter how much radiation my relatives
received, the cancers came back
stronger, like the body was their body
when it was clearly

Asking a geneticist my likeliness of getting
breast cancer is probably like reading about
my ancestors, like comparing what happened to them
to what is happening to me right now.

Maybe it is best
not to know.
Maybe it is


Ashley Harris aspires to be both a physician and a poet. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the Johnston Scholarship, and graduated in 2015 with a major in Chemistry and Hispanic Culture and Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. Her lifelong goal has been to be able to translate and create bilingual work and in May 2015 she began that journey by publishing a short story entitled “Black Wall Street” in both Spanish and English in the online magazine Aguas de Pozos. After graduation, she won the Gerard Unk Fellowship Grant to travel to both London and Portobelo, Panama to study poetry and art between the two locations. In addition, she helped Dr. Renee Alexander-Craft with her studies on the Carnaval tradition in Portobelo through the online database Digital Portobelo. She has also published her work in journals such as Event Horizon, Wusgood.black and the Yellow Chair Review.