They say brave but I don’t want it.
Who will we mourn today. Or won’t we.

Black all the windows. Lower
down the afternoon. I barricade

all my belonging. I am mostly never real
American or anything

availing. But I do take. And take
what’s given. The smell of blood.

I breathe it in. The dirt so thick with our good
fortune. And who pays for it. And what am I

but fear, but wanting. I’ll bite
the feeding hand until I’m fed

and buried. In the shining day.
All deadly good

intentions. A catalogue of virtues.
This is how I’ll disappear.


Copyright © 2017 by Camille Rankine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem at a time when our country’s characteristic brutality (and racism and misogyny and bigotry) was displaying itself with relentless frequency, and we were constantly being asked to be brave, or being lauded for our bravery. When I say ‘we,’ I suppose I mean black women. It’s not just us, but that’s the we that I especially belong to. Black women are expected to be strong always, and we so often are. But isn’t that exhausting. I was tired, I think, when I wrote this.”
—Camille Rankine