By Vanessa Willoughby


No miracles are required

To be black in America.

It takes one drop pumped through sprawling generations

A predisposition to nervous conditions

And a house that ripples with spirits.

Maybe a last name that never really belonged to you,

Or fit the grooves of your mouth,

Proof of a tangled narrative, a different country

Bound and gagged.

Grandparents who know that the word Negro

Fell out of fashion for the word Thug.

Mothers and fathers who warn of uniformed contract killers

Who act like proud poachers.


The white world demands the ease

Of an accepted revolution

Floating drugged out on the expectations of nothing, wrapped

In bed with their everyday monsters. Close your eyes

And pretend that your noose is a necklace.


The black body

Can be paid off with the wrong ballot or the right bullet

Saturated dreams that smell sickly like rotted meat, pain

Souring sweat.

The black body

Is still feared in the stillness of death.

They are afraid of their ghosts,

They believe they are harder to live with

Than the weight of mercy denied.


When you are black in America

There’s always the chance that the sirens will pass you

Like a runaway carnival, ruthless driver behind

The wheel flying past controlled consciousness.

The minute you can breathe again

Hands will encircle your neck

Anger appeased with the silence of your pulse. 


Vanessa Willoughby is a writer and editor. She is currently working on her first novel.







This is the last post in the 8-part series featuring poets and writers on theme of OUTRAGE. Here is my brief intro to the project.