Kaelyn Sabal-Wilson

Kaelyn Sabal-Wilson is a Los Angeles-based poet, currently living in London. At 22 years old, her work spans local and global explorations of girlhood, womanhood, queerness, blackness, and otherness. Sabal-Wilson uses her work to call forth and tell stories from her Afro-Caribbean upbringing in suburban Southern California to her current life as a second-generation Black Queer Woman working through her world. And when she is not writing, making music and watching films takes up most of her time.
contact info: 
instagram: kae_elms



home remedies

like my tea
most of my favorite things have honey in them somewhere
we are dying like the bees
the threat makes it sweet

i add lemon because i like a bit of bitterness
my mother used to eat them when she was pregnant with me
at twenty-five
i like to imagine her quartering a lemon that she grabbed from my grandmother’s tree
and sucking the juice out
holding the pulp to her teeth,
yellow skin flexing around her naturally straight smile
and arching against her lips
i had to get braces in college
she says she can never forget a smile,
a choreographed ritual of memory like a tequila shot
my mom tells me she drank until she was four weeks along, carrying me

coming home can be bitter sometimes
like crushed garlic in a catalina shot glass, faded from air drying in the dishwasher
with brandy from the back of the china cabinet,
a pinch of cayenne
a squeeze of lemon, and a small burst of honey at the bottom
a sweet tail for the beast
this is supposed to keep the sick out
like vicks on the soles of our feet when we sleep
some things really are a cure-all if you believe in them hard enough
my grandmother thinks i don’t believe in anything anymore because i stopped going to church
but i still put honey on a washcloth when i wish to clean my tongue




white rum diamonds

you left the abyss when you became a man
bearing the body of that scarlet bird, your country
lanky, with that open road smile
granny says you had a head of sugar, like sweet cakes
your curls turning into themselves like currant rolls
enticing the eyes of any hungry women
who passed you by
the smell of fresh baked and mother’s hands
you said there was never another woman like her
auntie says you had a mouth like ginger, bitter and sturdy
sensible, but sensitive
always eager to offer the healing of a word
from a shy boy body, lurking lower
the angry of red mango
sweet, fermenting, hot

you returned to the abyss when you became a father
covering your head in the diamonds that shrouded your upbringing
they were in the rainfall here
you brought back an image of what you had created
you made me red like you with your fears and your fire
heavy lips of sugar plum,
pouting at the whole world’s hatreds

you brought me here when i became a woman
to see where i was mined from
the holding hands that had polished you
for the strangling of my country
your palms filling with second lifelines
i have no home
just a mine
but you can always go back to the abyss
with the lightness of rum on your tongue
and call it your own




the daughter of the waters

my daddy was a raindrop                                                                                                        my mama was a river
falling and                                                                                                                                                   rushing and
falling                                                                                                                                                                   rushing
and falling and                                                                                                                                   and rushing and
transparent                                                                                                                                                             heavy
and falling and                                                                                                                                   and rushing and
falling                                                                                                                                                                   rushing
and falling                                                                                                                                                   and rushing
until he landed here                                                                                                                                  from a bank
on this strange ground, soaked                                                                              of scrub boards and bar soaps
in some other spillings                                                                not the same the second time, giver of shivers
he is oxblood boots on black gum soles                                                                       she is bare feet on a shore
my daddy cigarette stained, black gum soul                                                                       my mama bare to me
neither one of us can sing for shit                                                    and we are both unsure if i should tell her
but he can tell you who a star is                                                            but she can show you where the dark is
never said it to me but i know it                                                                            never said it to me but i saw it
i know it. i know it like when i felt him                                         i saw it. i saw it like when i felt her drown,
evaporating next to me, sucked up by the sun                                    the sound of a sink outrunning a basin
swallowed by the sky til she was ready to cry .                               swallowed by her shore til she was empty
again                                                                                                                                                                         again
falling and                                                                                                                                                   rushing and
falling                                                                                                                                                                  rushing
and falling                                                                                                                                                   and rushing
into shallow beds                                                                                                                           from her deep bed



and they never married
the river drinks the rain and
the rain drinks the river
and the river drinks the rain and
they never married
and the rain drinks the river and
the river drinks the rain
and the rain drinks the river
and i pour from them both when i am thirsty for cycles of my own
murky as it is
i can see myself in the thames
rising bridges over still waters, a brown fluidity flowing through a divided thing
but i can teach you what the water is
never said it to me but i felt it
i felt it. i felt it like when i was a puddle of the pacific myself
passing you in a city that they have never been to
spilling pools of muddled pain and unspecific stains
crashing and
and crashing
in beds that do not belong to me







steam rises from the remnants of a lionfish in the sun
like thick ropes spun by gold hands
i am your first born, unsurrendered
all of the women you don’t notice in the background are me
and my bronzed flesh,
forming stones and spilling structures
a sentence means nothing to a bitch like me
drowning is what’s usually happening below any great thing
i built this empire
i hand-stitched silver in all those dark clouds
when it rains
it rains and rains harder and some of us drown
and some of us drown
and some of us float like smoke
and some of us choke on our own tongues
and some of us die too young
and some of us
rise with the tides and become earth-toned tiger stripes
on the sand
smelling of death and the sea
the making of everything, and only made of steam




for writers who quote toni morrison in aging lecture halls

looking at a fish tank,
are you the glass or the water?
are you what is inside
or what is holding it?
are you filling
or being filled?
do you want folks to press up against you
or be submerged
with all of your creatures
either way, the thing in you is living.
will you feed it
or eat it
or free it
or let it
and flush it?
do you move with the tapping of the glass
or the swish of the fish
carnival plastic bags and early mourning
where is the current
coming from?
tell me what you are willing to touch
and where you are willing to be touched





last night in heaven

heaven didn’t really feel like home to me
there were too many white men
not enough of us
i had to stop going
after one of them called me “sis”
now i come to places like this
i was never really welcome in church
too many of us
crossing our arms in crucifixions
heaven got shut down a few months ago
there are too many black trans women
who are told to call a grave a home, a place to rest
if i could, i would live at pxssy palace
overwhelmed in all the best ways
paralysis can be pleasurable
anything can be erotic when you can enjoy living
heaven doesn’t exist anymore
but i’ll always come back here
because there are so many of us
who need this, a place to rest