It was just a fever / a strange Ophthalmia


(for NH)

that spread among some & made them see / others’ lives as cheap commodities / cheaper than the price of tobacco when it falls / or hog bellies when they bottom out / This is not a racist country / This is simply our home sweet home / Jim Crow was just a nice old man / so no one was chased by dogs & mauled / & no one was spit on while sitting at a lunch counter / & no one was dragged from a jail cell / tarred / feathered & hanged from a poll / & no water fountains said FOR WHITES ONLY / & no Black entrances were ‘round back / & no swimming pool was drained after the touch of Dorothy Dandridge’s toe / No red lines were drawn around our neighborhoods / There were no towns with restrictive covenants / or Sundown towns / no Night Riders / no KKK / no supremacists / no woman sewed a white hood & cape / no crosses were burned / no churches were bombed / no one marched on Washington / & Bull Connor had no firehoses / & no child named Ruby was escorted to school by federal marshals / & the Little Rock Nine were welcomed with open arms / & Chaney / Goodman / & Schwerner are old friends rocking on a porch every evening as the sun sets / This was never a racist country / No highways destroyed Black communities / the path of least resistance / No Black towns were buried under lakes / & no fires blazed in Tulsa or Rosewood / ignited by lies / Rosa Parks did not train years to stay seated when the time came / & she never was arrested & fingerprinted / & no one threatened to bomb her house / or cut her throat / & Frederic Douglas was the first Black President / Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the second / Medgar & Malcolm are about to be centenarians / & Emmett Till danced at his granddaughter’s wedding


Ellen June Wright is an American poet with British and Caribbean roots. Her work has been published in Plume, Tar River, Missouri Review, Verse Daily, Gulf Stream, Solstice, Louisiana Literature, Leon Literary Review, North American Review, Prelude, Gulf Coast, and is forthcoming in the Cimarron Review. She’s a Cave Canem and Hurston/Wright alumna and has received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations.

Lance Flowers is a Black multidisciplinary artist based in Texas. His work often tackles race, sociology, and satire through a lens of historical fiction. His audio work is in permanent collection at SFMOMA in collaboration with artist Rodney McMillian. His visual work has been recognized by institutions such as MFAH 5A and Texas Southern University. Flowers has also created album art for Stonesthrow Records. He is also a finalist for the Toni Beauchamp literary award.