"Poetry for the People": Reading Garveyism through Poetry


by Jessica Covil Listen

You have told me

I am the source of my own shame

that your ancestor and mine

were brothers

but mine did the unspeakable;

brought down his father’s curse

and now, I am still feeling it.


Ham’s skin

black as his sin,

isn’t that what you told me?

Japheth meaning fair

meaning white

—meaning just, right?


                       just right

               all right

                               all white




You have grown and

spread yourself out

just like God intended, hmm?

And I am servant of servants to you

as it was written.


This is what you told me,

punctuating the li(n)e

with the crack of a whip

laying the stress on thick with cowhide

in Jesus’ name, amen.

Thumbscrews to drill it in.


But you got the Bible all wrong

and me with it.

See, we are Cain and Abel

—brothers ourselves.


And there are crosses in fields

where God is nowhere to be seen

where you have taken your own brother

and murdered him.


How does it feel to be the problem?

the reason this land is cursed,

the grounds for my leaving.

Not my shame

never my sin,

just your hatred

after all I have given.


Let me return to my God,

for He is surely far away from here.

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