Published on Academy of American Poets (

Duplex: Black Mamas Praying

Black Mamas stay on their knees praying. Cursing
the lies folks tell ‘bout how the world don’t need you—

“The world don’t need you” is a lie folks tell themselves
when they step over blood gelled black and slick.

Folks step over black blood gelled and slick to get
on with things—don’t bring bones to the cemetery.

Bones in the cemetery, hear the prophecy:
—together, bone to bone—tendons and flesh—skin—

bone to bone—tendons and flesh—skin—together,
four winds breathe into these slain, that they may live—

—breathe, four winds, into these slain. That they may live—
Calling forth prophecy is no light work, No—

but, for Joshua, the sun stood still—the moon stopped.
Black Mamas stay on your knees praying—praying—


Copyright © 2020 by Antoinette Brim-Bell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I had been carrying around the line ‘Black Mamas stay on their knees praying’ for months and months. I just didn’t know where to go from there, until I heard Jericho Brown discuss the poetic form he created called ‘the Duplex.’ The form allowed the line to repeat, resonate, and plead. It was just what I needed.”
Antoinette Brim-Bell


Antoinette Brim-Bell

Antoinette Brim-Bell’s most recent book is These Women You Gave Me (Indolent Books, 2017). She is a Professor of English at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Date Published: 2020-08-11

Source URL: