Dreadnought, I. Dread from the sea I was drawn, I
blue as dread, tender dread, taloned as our future dread.
Dread the constellation I was born under, dread I
slept under, dread the waves of history, blustering red.
Dread my mother’s calm. Dread the harpy’s song. Dread she
nursed me, dread she named me. Dread my girlhood
under sugar cane. Dread the hurricane. I was a child
of dread a psalm of dread, dread pressed into my palm
like the blessed herb. A divine dread, Rastaman said. Before I
could speak there was dread, before I could stumble.
Dread roamed the shore a ghostly spume, dreadless thread
of the woman I’m erasing, dread my one coastline crumbling
to sea rise, to abyss. Dread my dead tooth unmaking
the veil, dread the ointment I, dread the wound I, dread the wail I,
dread the johncrow’s eye, smoke of black clouds heralding
only dread. Skirmish of youth, my constant banner of dread.
Dread at home, dread to the bone, my father dangling his guillotine
of dread. Dread as daily bread. Nursed dark by decades of dread,
teachers recoiled at my knotted thorns of dread. How the white
girls blanched with dread. Scorned for the hair on my head.
Beware my Blackheart of dread, the reckless haunt of my dread,
girl born of nothing but salt-air and dread. Girl who bore nothing
but a vision of dread. Such a savage, dread. Thrum of the natty dread.
Congo Bongo dread. Martyred was the dread. Brother still the dread.
Blood of my dread. Babylon maiming families of dread, pastors railing
against our dread, dread the crown of heavens I wear upon this head. Dread
at the root, dread of the fruit. Sister of dread. Daughter of the dread.
First woman giving birth to her dread. A gorgon stoning every baldhead, dead.
Copyright © 2023 by Safiya Sinclair. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.