poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 2, 2018.
About this Poem 

“This is one of the last poems I wrote for my collection Magical Negro, which has an epigraph from Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives, from which the poem title comes. Magical Negro deals largely with intergenerational connection and Black American iconography, and the gap between Angela Davis’s teeth is one of the mascots that shows up in a few poems. I wanted this poem to be, in Glenn Ligon’s words, ‘negro sunshine’—a collective embrace and armoring. The last line of the poem wrote itself.”
—Morgan Parker

It Was Summer Now and the Colored People Came Out Into the Sunshine

They descend from the boat two by two. The gap in Angela Davis’s teeth speaks to the gap in James Baldwin’s teeth. The gap in James Baldwin’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s Teeth. The gap in Malcolm X’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s teeth. The gap in Condoleezza Rice’s teeth doesn’t speak. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard kisses the Band Aid on Nelly’s cheek. Frederick Douglass’s side part kisses Nikki Giovanni’s Thug Life tattoo. The choir is led by Whoopi Goldberg’s eyebrows. The choir is led by Will Smith’s flat top. The choir loses its way. The choir never returns home. The choir sings funeral instead of wedding, sings funeral instead of allegedly, sings funeral instead of help, sings Black instead of grace, sings Black as knucklebone, mercy, junebug, sea air. It is time for war.

Copyright © 2018 by Morgan Parker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Morgan Parker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker is the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House Books, 2017).

by this poet

poem

Once I was:
lone brown spot
in a garden

of upright stems
They said
what do you have to say

let your dry lips open
let cocoa powder
rain onto our desks

they stared at me
for six days
as if I were a peach pit

as if by lunchtime
I

poem

The most beautiful hearse                    I have ever seen
is parked in front of my stoop
Perched            hands folded for six to eight weeks
twinkling like a siren                               a new idea of love

Trees are planted but don’t exist yet
They are leaning non existent