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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 8, 2016.
About this Poem 

“One morning, as she drove her carriage home from running errands, Varina Davis saw a mixed-race child being beaten by a black woman, presumably his mother. She took the child, a seven year-old named Jim Limber, from the woman, and brought him home to live with herself and her husband, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. Limber was, in turn, taken from the Davises a little over a year later, when the the Union Army captured them in Irwinville, Georgia, and he never saw them again.”
—Shane McCrae

Jim Limber the Adopted Mulatto Son of Jefferson Davis Visits His Adoptive Parents After the War

The man said I could see them if I wanted

He said     America would never be

A place where we could     live together not at

Least in my lifetime     but the damned don’t see

No     important differences     between the Ne-

gro and the White the damned     don’t see no bad

In folks if what bad they done they ain’t     free-

ly chose to do the damned don’t see     no good

In folks if what good they done they ain’t     hoped

To do and the man     he said part of momma

Varina part of daddy     Jeff alread-

y     was burning in Hell I ought to join them

 

He     said we     might see good     from seeing each other

Tortured we might     finally see each other

Copyright © 2016 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author of five books of poetry: In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), The Animal Too Big to Kill (Persea Books, 2015), winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award; Forgiveness Forgiveness (Factory Hollow Press, 2014); Blood (Noemi Press, 2013); and Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011).

by this poet

poem

A white man wouldn't less

He stripped me naked was

Whipping me know

I was a woman     got

A name just turn

It inside out

And I'm a man

How else I'm gonna know myself

When I am called




A white

poem

Nicholas turned     eleven two

Months he ago a he ago

I after him a-running still

But quietly and far away


For the first time turned     far away

Without me or     without that day

Me seeing him on all the bright-

ness gone     the day     the snow had gone

poem

The shadow I had carried lightly has

Been forced upon me now and heavy since

Bulky since     now and since unwieldy as

A corpse the shadow I     was born from in

 

And to I     should have known I couldn’t being

As how it wasn’t me who lifted it

Not     all the way     from

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