Published on Academy of American Poets (

there is no flash

the eyes            fine tuned            perhaps

                    consciously       a first time offense

to focus on    cliché                              heaven

          a great white trope:     the white light 

the first time I nearly died

          I reached too            towards                 imaginary white

lands of white hands draped in white robes white rings glowing
      above white heads

      instead I forced my niece to enter my mind           her first

word   light      an opened fist of light             mouthed

           see the light see the light see              the light

some midnight season of new moons      an annihilation

      of the obscenity of the bright white flesh

of a glistening cold moon poking through the night

                                               my father says                   show me the

who knows      absolute darkness            is    the light

  my niece sings this little light of mine & points in the darkness 

   this little light see the light of mine I’m gonna let see the light

                           friends                         there is no light at the end

only hunger    muted            & sharp     blinding rage

of the mind’s kaleidoscopic emptiness oh it is blindingly white



Copyright © 2015 by Metta Sáma. Used with permission of the author.

About this Poem

“This poem began as a response to a conversation between Terrance Hayes and Patricia Smith hosted by Cave Canem in New York City. Hayes read poems on photography and talked a bit about the photographic eye. In drafting the poem, I began to think about the interconnectedness of photography, death (some cultures believe that taking photographs equals the stealing of souls), the white light (as flash), the white light (as tunnel), the white light (as heaven), the white light (that surrounds saints and Christ), the white light (as the white gaze), and my ongoing thoughts about the white gaze of the photographer on the person of color as subject.”
Metta Sáma


Metta Sáma

Metta Sáma is author of Swing at your own risk, forthcoming from Kelsey St. Press in 2019,The Year We Turned Dragon (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, 2016), and After “Sleeping to Dream”/After After (Nous-zot Press, 2014). She directs the Center for Women Writers & the Creative Writing Program at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she also teaches. Sáma also serves on the advisory board of Black Radish Books and is a senior fellow at the Black Earth Institute.

Date Published: 2015-02-10

Source URL: