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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 4, 2018.
About this Poem 

“This poem was written to move past a moment that hurt deeply and stopped me in my tracks—a scenario that I know I will continue to encounter as our country continues to struggle with closing the chasm between our ideals and our connected realities. This was a weary moment in the long trudge toward the unlimited collective potential we have if enough of us are willing to do the internal and external work necessary for progress.”

—Kamilah Aisha Moon

Fannie Lou Hamer

                        “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
 
She sat across the desk from me, squirming.
It was stifling. My suite runs hot
but most days it is bearable.
 
This student has turned in nothing,
rarely comes to class. When she does,
her eyes bore into me with a disdain
born long before either of us.
 
She doesn’t trust anything I say.
She can’t respect my station,
the words coming out of these lips,
this face. My breathing
is an affront. It’s me, she says.
 
I never was this student’s professor—
her immediate reaction
seeing me at the smart board.
But I have a calling to complete
& she has to finish college,
return to a town where
she doesn’t have to look at,
listen to or respect anyone
like me—forever tall, large
& brown in her dagger eyes,
though it’s clear she looks down
on me. She can return—
if not to her hometown, another
enclave, so many others, where
she can brush a dog’s golden coat,
be vegan & call herself
a good person.
 
Are you having difficulty with your other classes?
 
No.
 
Go, I say, tenderly.
Loaded as a cop’s gun,
she blurts point-blank
that she’s afraid of me. Twice.
My soft syllables rattle something
planted deep,
so I tell her to go where
she'd feel more comfortable
as if she were my niece or
godchild, even wish her
a good day.
 
If she stays, the ways
this could backfire! 
Where is my Kevlar shield
from her shame?
 
There’s no way to tell
when these breasts will evoke
solace or terror. I hate
that she surprises me, that I lull
myself to think her ilk
is gone despite knowing
so much more, and better.
 
I can’t proselytize my worth
all semester, exhaust us
for the greater good.
I can’t let her make me
a monster to myself—
I’m running out of time & pity
the extent of her impoverished
heart. She’s from New
England, I’m from the Mid-South.
Far from elderly, someone
just raised her like this
with love.
 
I have essays to grade
but words warp
on the white page, dart
just out of reach. I blink
two hours away, find it hard
to lift my legs, my voice,
my head precious to my parents
now being held
in my own hands.
 
How did they survive
so much worse, the millions
with all of their scars!
What would these rivers be
without their weeping,
these streets without
their faith & sweat?
 
Fannie Lou Hamer
thundered what they felt,
we feel, into DNC microphones
on black and white TV
years before
I was a notion.
 
She doesn’t know who
Fannie Lou Hamer is,
and never has to.

Copyright © 2018 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Kamilah Aisha Moon

Kamilah Aisha Moon

Kamilah Aisha Moon is the author of Starshine & Clay (Four Way Books, 2017). She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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   —to Shirley Q. Liquor, Drag Queen in Blackface


When you're gay in Dixie,

you're a clown of a desperate circus.


Sometimes the only way to be like daddy

is to hate like him—

hope your brothers laugh

instead of shoot,

wrap a