12 | stephen leeper

where you from in africa?

I’m from where the women’s heads are shaved and dreaded
Eyes open. Eyes closed.
I’m from where old-fashioned sewing machines sit on wooden desks and dusty floors
Heads down. Legs crossed. Knees touching.
I’m from where criminals know where you keep your gun
Men walking, heads turning.
I’m from where days are numbered across a sunsetting sky
Young silhouettes running along the beaches
I’m from where gazelles act shy before the camera
Tall grass unable to hide their shame
I’m from where kings play acoustic guitars
Eastern name. Western bling.
I’m from where white photographers take pictures of happy black boys
A group standing afar waiting for their close-up


stephen jamal leeper recently completed his first year in the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts. His primary genres are poetry and creative non-fiction and he writes at the intersection of identity, religion, and politics. “Where you from in Africa” is from a chapbook of poetry about ethnic identity formation and is his first publication.