On Almost Loving an Activist | by Jensen McRae

I love him
the way I reclaim bitch,
and nigger—
I paint his namesake too proudly
on my revolutionary chest.
Love him in spite of or because of his blackness
instead of against it like a backdrop.
I go to sleep with my lips twitching from the fiction
of loving him in languages lost on the trans-Atlantic passage,
Of him wearing me like a dashiki he bought at a department store,
Both of us too terrified to admit
that our feet hurt, that we don’t want to walk anymore,
That for nine of these ten riotous miles
we have not known where we are going.
I love him
when I’m listening to Kendrick and Chance,
Reading bell hooks,
Watching Kevin Hart’s standup—
I love him when I watch 12 Years A Slave,
During heated debates in Intro to American Studies & Ethnicity,
During the inauguration,
During the week of the election
when he takes me to my first protest—
When I tell you to run, I really need you to run, okay?
And a cop draws his weapon,
A toy soldier at the bottom of the staircase,
Watching us raise our arms through the scope of a rifle—
Each of us with one hand clenched like a panther’s fist
and the other gripping our cell phones,
I love him on the record,
On the news,
On the path of most resistance.
I love him
like resistance.
At some times,
My heartbeat follows the law
of the love.
At others,
My whole body fights it.


*This poem is a 2017 winner featured in Into the Void!



Jensen McRae is a 20-year-old, half-black-half-white writer from Los Angeles. She is a junior at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music as a popular music major as a songwriting emphasis. She has written three feature films, three novel manuscripts, several short films and essays, and hundreds of songs and poems. She is so goddamn sensitive (and has such low blood pressure) that she fainted when she met her songwriting hero, John Mayer. She has been rejected by white men with varying states of beards on almost every social networking site known to man. She has an older brother and a younger brother, both of whom are taller than her, and a German Shepherd mix named Mix because the writers of her sitcom life panicked and kinda just threw her in at the last minute.