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About this Poem 

“I’ve always had vivid dreams. This one came to me with such force that I woke confused, and I had to get up and go to my office. I’ve been writing these poems as a way to develop a dream diary to understand the recurrence of certain symbols that I encounter night after night.”
TJ Jarrett

The Children

Sometimes I dream of a slave ship docking at port
& my grandmother has brought me here. She takes my hand
(in the dream I am very young) as we watch the children
disembark. The children are lithe & descend one after
another after another—squinting, lifting their hands to shield
their eyes from the burning light of this new country.
I ask her: But will they be loved? She rubs my head &
says: The lack of it isn’t the worst thing to happen
to them. Think of all the ways what is not love comes for us,
sometimes parading itself as obligation, or the violence
we bear & soon they won’t distinguish one from the other.
The hurt itself will be a kind of attention.
A boy hears
us talking & stares right back at me. He is black, blacker
than anyone I’d ever seen—iridescent, glowing with it.
I’m so moved that I dart between the guards toward him
& hold him in my arms & where I touch him, feathers
grow. The boy sprouts wings & lifts from the earth.
We are transfixed—me & grandmamma & children & the guards-
gazing upward. At first, he careens away, then back toward us
only to ascend, blacking out the sun until he climbs
high enough that he is swallowed by it altogether.

Copyright © 2015 by TJ Jarrett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by TJ Jarrett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

TJ Jarrett

TJ Jarrett

TJ Jarrett is the author of Zion (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition.

by this poet


If you believe what you hear, he was everywhere
from Virginia to Alabama just beyond every holler.

Which is to say he was everywhere and everywhere
he was, he was unwanted. In one story, they say it

happened because if a white man said it happened,
then it happened. In another, he was a


its ruthless syntax, and the ease with which it interjects
itself into our days. I thought how best to explain this—

this dark winter, but that wasn’t it, or beds unshared
but that isn’t exactly it either, until I remembered

Saturday afternoons spent with my father in the garage
and those