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About this poet

Deborah Paredez received a PhD from Northwestern University. She is the author of the poetry collection This Side of Skin (Wings Press, 2002). Paredez is a cofounder and codirector of CantoMundo, a national organization supporting Latinx poets and poetry. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.


for Deborah Johnson (Akua Njeri)

—Composed on the 45th anniversary of Fred Hampton's murder, Chicago IL—

you didn’t look

down or back, spent

the fractured minutes

studying each crease

and curve of the law-

men’s faces

so later you could tell

            how it happened:

how you crossed over
            his body, how you kept

your hands up

how you didn't

reach for anything

not your opened robe—

nothing—how they said he's good

            and dead

how you crossed

over the threshold

how you lifted one

and then the other

slippered foot across the ice

            how you kept yourself

from falling—how

your bared belly bore

the revolver’s burrowing snout—


—how when the baby starts

            to descend, it’s called

lightening though

it feels like a weight

you cannot bear—lightening

            is when you know

it won't be

long before it's over

Originally published in RHINO. Copyright © 2015 by Deborah Paredez. Used with permission of the author.

Originally published in RHINO. Copyright © 2015 by Deborah Paredez. Used with permission of the author.

Deborah Paredez

Deborah Paredez

Deborah Paredez is the author of This Side of Skin (Wings Press, 2002). 

by this poet


Since before the war there was always work.
In '38, Papa sweating all day
for the WPA, Mrs. Wright
hiring Mama and her sisters to mind
the children and the wash—plenty to watch
after in white folks' homes, too much to name.

Took my diploma when they called my name.


Again the sea-machines creep from the east,
their Cronus jaws unlatched and pups expelled.
The scene the same. Again. Again. The sand
now boot-lace muck, the rutted shore resigned.
No words will do. Laments will not withstand
this thrashing tide. It's time for snarling beast-


Rate your pain the physical
therapist instructs and I am trying
not to do what they say
women do lowballing the number
trying hard not to try so hard
to be the good patient scattered
assurances lining the aisles like
dead petals and me left
holding nothing but what’s been