2. "The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till" by Gwendolyn Brooks
after the murder,
after the burial
Emmett’s mother is a pretty-faced thing;
the tint of pulled taffy.
3. "Cordon Negro" by Essex Hemphill
I’m dying twice as fast
as any other American
between eighteen and thirty-five
This disturbs me,
but I try not to show it in public.
5. "Lineage" by Margaret Walker
My grandmothers are full of memories
Smelling of soap and onions and wet clay
With veins rolling roughly over quick hands
They have many clean words to say.
My grandmothers were strong.
Why am I not as they?
6. "The Night Rains Hot Tar" by Lance Jeffers
The night rains hot tar into my throat,
the taste is good to my heart’s tongue,
into my heart the night pours down its moon
like a yellow molten residue of dung:
the night pours down the sea into my throat
my heart drains off its blood in love and pain:
the night pours a Negro song into my throat,
bloodred is the color of this rain:
8. " A Small Needful Fact" by Ross Gay
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow,
9. "Black Lady Lazarus" by Diamond Sharp
Dying is an art and we Black girls do it so well.
10. "If It Is The Summer Of 2009" by Hanif Abdurraqib
...we revel in long enough to forget
that we are black in our 20’s which is to say that we are too old
for this shit
and by this shit I of course mean living
I of course mean that we have carried the lifeless bodies of enough younger brothers to never forget that we should be dead by now
we should have the decency to unburden America
by our dying on the side of a cracked road
12. "What They Did Yesterday Afternoon" by Warsan Shire
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
13. "Self-Portrait In Case of Disappearance" by Safia Elhillo
girls with fathers gone or gone missing
sistered to dark boys marked to die & our own
bodies scarved & arranged in rows on prayer mats
we go missing too & who mourns us who
falls into the gap we leave in the world
14. "Elegy" by Aracelis Girmay
What to do with this knowledge
that our living is not guaranteed?
Perhaps one day you touch the young branch
of something beautiful. & it grows & grows
despite your birthdays & the death certificate,
& it one day shades the heads of something beautiful
or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out
of your house, then, believing in this.
Nothing else matters.
15. "Gravity" by Angel Nafis
After Carrie Mae Weems’s 'The Kitchen Table Series'
I. THE STRAW
Can you throw this away Maybe you should hire more Black staff
Where are you really from You’re not busy are you You look ethnic today
Where’s the African American section Can you turn the music down
Fasterfasterfaster Let me see those eyes Beautiful If you were mine
I’d never let you leave the house It’s like you went straight to Africa
to get this one Is that your hair I mean your real hair Blackass
Your gums are black You Black You stink You need a perm
I don’t mean to be
16. "Let Me Handle My Business, Damn" by Morgan Parker
Took me awhile to learn the good words
make the rain on my window grown
and sexy now I’m in the tub holding down
that on-sale Bordeaux pretending
to be well adjusted I am on that real
jazz shit sometimes I run the streets
sometimes they run me I’m the body
of the queen of my hood filled up
with bad wine bad drugs mu shu pork
sick beats what more can I say to you