Friday Poem


Let me go back to my father
in the body of my mother the day he told her
having black children won’t save you when the revolution comes.
Let me do more than laugh,
like she did.

Let me go back to my mother and do more
than roll my eyes when she tells me,
I think deep down, in a past life, I was a black blues singer.

My mother remembers the convent
where she worked after I was born;
the nuns who played with me while she cleaned.

My father remembers the bedroom window
of their first apartment; his tired body
climbing through. It was best,

they agreed, if she signed the lease alone.

Scholars conclude:
the myths of violence that surround the black male
body protect the white female body

from harm. I conclude:
race was not not a factor in my parents’ attraction.
I am the product of their curiosity, their vengeance, their need.

They rescued each other from stories scripted
onto their bodies. They tasted forbidden and devoured each other

Let me build a house
where their memories diverge.

by Jamaica Baldwin
from the Smith College Poetry Center, 2008