Published on Academy of American Poets (

We Feel Now A Largeness Coming On

Being called all manner of things
from the Dictionary of Shame—
not English, not words, not heard,
but worn, borne, carried, never spent—
we feel now a largeness coming on,
something passing into us. We know
not in what source it was begun, but
rapt, we watch it rise through our fallen,
our slain, our millions dragged, chained.
Like daylight setting leaves alight—
green to gold to blinding white.
Like a spirit caught. Flame-in-flesh.
I watched a woman try to shake it, once,
from her shoulders and hips. A wild
annihilating fright. Other women
formed a wall around her, holding back
what clamored to rise. God. Devil.
Ancestor. What Black bodies carry
through your schools, your cities.
Do you see how mighty you’ve made us,
all these generations running?
Every day steeling ourselves against it.
Every day coaxing it back into coils.
And all the while feeding it.
And all the while loving it.


“We Feel Now a Largeness Coming On” originally appeared in The New Yorker, November 23, 2020. Copyright © 2020 by Tracy K. Smith. Used with permission of the poet.


Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith was the poet laureate of the United States from 2017 to 2019. She received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 2014 and the James Laughlin Award in 2006 for her second book, Duende. She is the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor for April 2019 and 2018

Date Published: 2021-10-22

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