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You cannot see the Mothership in space,
It and She being made of the same thing.
All our mothers hover there in the ceaseless
blue-black, watching it ripple and dim
to the prized pale blue in which we spin—
we who are Black, and you, too. Our mothers
know each other there, fully and finally.
They see what some here see and call anomaly:
the way the sight of me might set off
a shiver in another mother’s son: a deadly
silent digging in: a stolid refusal to budge:
the viral urge to stake out what on solid ground
is Authority, and sometimes also Territory.
Our mothers, knowing better, call it Folly.
Poet, librettist, and translator Tracy K. Smith served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States and is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University, where she also chairs the Lewis Center for the Arts. The author of four books of poems, she received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. In October, Graywolf Press will publish Such Color: New and Selected Poems. She will deliver the keynote at the “Reflecting on the Past, Facing the Future” symposium on April 9, 2021.
World Literature Today’s spring issue, “Redreaming Dreamland,” reflects on the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Also, a special section on Chinese migrant workers’ literature. Essays, poetry, fiction, & interviews + reviews of new books by Najwan Darwish, Cixin Liu, Olga Tokarczuk, and dozens more. Cover art by Greenwood Art Project artist Ebony Iman Dallas.
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