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By Charif Shanahan

When I say But mother, Black or not Black,

Of course you are polyethnic, your look does not change

Though it does harden, a drying clay bust

Abandoned or deliberately incomplete,

All the features carved in

Except the eyes. What I’m trying—

I mean—You are an Arab, yes,

By culture, by language, and in part by blood; by blood

You are also Black African—and when, then, I say

And also probably a fair amount of European, too—the lights,

Though we’re standing at the corner of 195th and Jerome,

Turn up somehow

Tracing an outline of you onto the armory’s sharp red brick, the El

Barreling up from the tunnel like a surge of magma reaching

For air and as I wait for it to pass so that you can

Hear me again, so that I can hear myself at last

Say But here, for me, that doesn’t exactly matter. Don’t you see—?

Your face hangs on the fair of fair amount—heavy drops

Of oil, or old rain, falling onto us from the tracksalmost willing away

The layer of long-dead men flattened onto it, and the desperate

Rest of you, until I say with my looking

Through the unbearable human noise, My darling sweet mother, it is

Fine, it is fine. For us here now I will be the first of our line.

Source: Poetry (May 2019)

  • Relationships
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Charif Shanahan
Charif Shanahan was born and raised in the Bronx. He is the author of Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry/SIU Press, 2017), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award. He is currently a Jones Lecturer in Poetry in the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University.   See More By This Poet

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