A Poem by Morgan Parker

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

The Book of Negroes


You see the commercial on BET
while you’re painting your nails.

The women are only crying.
The cabins are dull. You’re trying

to text this dude. Negro, please,
why sleep when the world so bad.

Twisted golden butt in ash. You crazy.
D’Angelo. Slum Village. That good good

memory of skin. For him you would
be pumice shined to pearl.

He makes you wanna write your name.


This book is spit, cum, cloud cover.
We Definite people.

This book is about lying down quietly.
No one wrote the blessing of our ankles

in foamy water. We always emerge.
We sing because we cannot bear the heat.

We wear black. We cannot bear the heat.
We don’t call the police. We fill bathtubs with

windchimes and lower them in the ground.
We Nothing left.

This book is uncorrected proof. You read it
on your eyelids. You sleep under it.

You give it away. You tear out whole chapters.
You say you read it but you didn’t.


What to a slave is the fourth of july.
What to a woman is a vote.
What to a slave is an award show.
What to a slave is a story book.
What to a slave is fine china.
What to a woman is a canopy bed.
What to a slave is the hard sky.
What to a woman is the bottom of a glass.
What to a slave are flatlands from an aircraft.
What to a woman is a missed call.
What to a woman is the milky way.
What to a slave is a square technically it’s perfect.


Summertime and the living is
extraordinarily difficult. The sunset

seems unimportant. It becomes
a calm. Sunglasses, white

wine spritzers. Would you hate yourself
less if you picked your fruit from trees.

You prefer friends to remain
in train stations. What side the mountain

is home. You were not invited
into the orange groves.

Sometimes you go outside
and control is possible.

Everybody has an opinion.
Everything rolls off your shoulders.

Morgan Parker is the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night (Switchback Books, 2015). She is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a Pushcart Prize winner. She lives in Brooklyn.>

You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.