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About this Poem 

“This poem is dedicated to Phillis Wheatley, the first African American to publish a book of poetry, and a woman who was taken from Africa—and presumably, her parents—as a small child and then, sold into slavery. In West African culture, a ‘griot’ is an historian, storyteller, praise singer, or poet; the different, encapsulated bits of language in this poem represent the many black female speakers who remember the stories of their stolen kin.”
—Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Chorus of the Mothers-Griot

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

for Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784)





                                [amnesiac wood]

[nostrils of girls]	        [who was bought]	        [uncle’s hand]
[guts on the air]	        [who was sold]		[defeated man]
[history’s charnel]	        [i say] 	                [trader’s silver]

                                [sailing knot to knot]

[naked in the corner]	[door of no return]	[sing the mutiny]
[in the slave house]	[sniff bougainvillea]	[who stands ashamed]
[i say]		 	[ready dawn’s kill]	        [naked in the corner]

                                [jealous sharks]

[i shall]			[who did]		        [i say]
[they did]		        [i’m here]		        [my name]
[who shall]		        [i say]		        [yes here]

                                [on the battlefield] 

[call woman]		[call america]		[call revolution]
[call the brother]	        [call myth]                  [i say] 
[call the auction]	        [call africa]		        [call revolution]

                                [in God’s name]

[is this called]		[is my mother]		[is my kin]
[i say]			[is this called]		[is some land]
[is my mother]		[and what] 		        [is this called]





	after Lucille Clifton

Copyright © 2014 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 10, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2014 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 10, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Born in 1967, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is the author of multiple books of poetry

by this poet

poem

for Billie Holiday

There's fairness in changing blood for septet's
guardian rhythm, the horn blossoming
into cadenza. No good pimp's scowl, his
baby's voice ruined sweet for the duration.

Yes, these predictable fifths. O, the blues
is all about slinging those low tales out
the back door (
poem
A Black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies...Lord M...calls her Dido, which I suppose is all the name she has. He knows he has been reproached for showing fondness for her...

        From The Diary and Letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson,
        August 1779