Time to Cry — By Ralvell Rogers II

When was the last time that you cried?”

I asked my father through the phone.

He was silent at first.

Never before had I questioned his sensitivity

nor was there a sign of weakness in my childhood

when I watched him closely.

His face was always grim

or his head down with his 9 to 5



My father only smiles at progress:

when our dark green lawn gets mowed,

the creme tiles of our kitchen floor installed,

those living room walls painted a thick coat of maroon,

and the smell of rubber excites him so

when he replaces tire after tire,

after tire.

His duties within the family were clear to him:

be a handyman around the house and




Though I have witnessed my mother cry,

and on many different occasions,

I have never seen my father weep.

The year you were born,

my best friend died,”

his voice was like that of a child.

This cell phone conveniently acting as a safeguard

sheltering his facial expressions from me.


I shed a few tears for Moka,

after he was shot.

We used to run the streets together

when we had no guidance as kids.

We would get into trouble and out


Moka was like a brother to me.”

He rushed off of the phone

I have to get back to work,” he said.

My father was the rock of our family

working his 9 to 5 tirelessly.

He was Young Vell in the streets

where drug dealers and gangbangers took him in

when his father was in the military

and his mother was being beaten down

by words and hands of a stepfather

who despised the presence of a child not his own.

My father became a rock

when he sold rocks

on the corner of Prospect

in the city of Kansas City

where he fought niggas

because of his light skin

and it didn’t matter

since they all went to jail

or got shot like Moka.

My father ran from police

he served his time in jail

and then created two kids

or maybe even three

paying his child support

on time

marrying my mother

and keeping his 9 to 5

His duties within the family were clear to him.

He hadn’t had the pleasures of weeping since 1996

the year that his best friend died,

the year that I was born.

and in his mind,

he didn’t have time to cry.

~ Ralvell Rogers II

*”Time to Cry” was previously published by literary magazine Tittynope Zine in 2016*

Ralvell Rogers II is an ambitious storyteller from Kansas City, Missouri, who focuses on realistic fiction and reflective poetry. Before graduating with his BA in English at Emporia State University, Rogers was the first student-recipient of the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in 2018. Currently, Ralvell lives in Arlington, Virginia with his fiance.

Guest editor Annette Hope Billings is an award-winning poet known for the impact of her audible presentations of work. In 2016 she brought her registered nursing career to an early end to fully pursue her passion for writing. She is happily working on her fourth collection of poetry. Billings’ work can also be found in a variety of anthologies as well as in print and online journals. Please visit her website and/or Facebook page for further information.