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By Kevin Young

Wake to find everything black

what was white, all the vice

versa—white maids on TV, black


sitcoms that star white dwarfs

cute as pearl buttons. Black Presidents,

Black Houses. White horse


candidates. All bleach burns

clothes black. Drive roads

white as you are, white songs


on the radio stolen by black bands

like secret pancake recipes, white back-up

singers, ball-players & boxers all


white as tar. Feathers on chickens

dark as everything, boiling in the pot

that called the kettle honky. Even


whites of the eye turn dark, pupils

clear & changing as a cat’s.

Is this what we’ve wanted


& waited for? to see snow

covering everything black

as Christmas, dark pages written


white upon? All our eclipses bright,

dark stars shooting across pale

sky, glowing like ash in fire, shower


every skin. Only money keeps

green, still grows & burns like grass

under dark daylight.


Kevin Young, "Negative" from To Repel Ghosts: The Remix. Copyright © 2005 by Kevin Young, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Steerforth Press.

Source: To Repel Ghosts: The Remix (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)

  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Kevin Young
Kevin Young was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He studied under Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido at Harvard University and, while a student there, became a member of the Dark Room Collective, a community of African American writers. “I feel like a poem is made up of poetic and unpoetic language, or unexpected language,” Young said in a 2006 interview with Ploughshares. “I think there are many other vernaculars, whether it’s the vernacular of the blues, or the vernacular of visual art, the sort of living language of the everyday.” For roughly a decade, Young was the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. Young is the poetry editor of the New Yorker and the director of New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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