40 acres & a jewel-encrusted orchid crown
for each & every living baby girl

growing up the way
we did. The way

we do. Unbridled. Unburied
though we stay pursued

by the U.S. school-to-prison
state’s laser-like vision.

Bi-weekly standing ovations.
Bras-Coupé resuscitated

with a sledgehammer slung over
his left shoulder, eyes ablaze

& dead set on the private
sector, the price

of four-year tuition, four-year
fascist presidents, any & all forms

of predatory opulence. Scholarships.
Scholars that love us

enough to break this language
lengthwise, filled as it is

with the bones of our fallen. Monuments
to the fallen. A grave site

for the illustrious Negro dead,
like Zora Neale Hurston said,

illustrious meaning you were black
& full of adoration, or vexed,

which is just another way
of saying you wanted to survive

the world said die
& you refused its refusal.

Another approach to the general
sentiment that Blackness

is beautiful, with no referent
to their everyday negation

of our essential, human splendor.
An apology on the Senate

floor. For the trade, the plunder
of our names, unremarked

graves, a hand in the hair,
a boot to the throat, guns

in the schools & the guns
are the books, the stares

of the second grade teacher
calling your son a distraction,

your daughter’s braids illegal,
your building a blight

on the neighborhood,
the good you do & dream

of never quite good
enough to merit

the bull’s eye’s removal.
A ship to wherever

we point on a map
of the measurable

universe, dare call
harbor, sanctum, ground

where the children can play
& come home whole.

From Owed (Penguin Poets, 2020). Copyright © 2020 Joshua Bennett. Used with permission of the author and Penguin Random House.