Published on Academy of American Poets (

Fish & Duck Skills

Sometimes it pays to go to Bojangles. To drive
out of the parking lot, see the red awning: Fish & 
Duck Skills. A man walks out and it is broad
daylight. Back when I was a new adult in Chattanooga
I’d dare myself to go to the Adult Book Shop on
Market Street in the daytime or to the gasoline 
station that my parents frequented, the one close
to our old house, where pornography was stored
in plastic. Back then I only dreamt in violence. &
living was an act of deliberate volatility. Likely,
I could trace it all back to Vaughn who laughed
in my face when I told him I’d been molested
that this was the reason having sex with boys 
was an act of self-hatred, how Vaughn shared
not his story of sexual assault, but my story,
with any Tyner Junior High teen willing 
to listen. So much was going on back then:
the little race riots between us & Ooltewah,
the White gay guy who thought he was Prince
and was terrified of being found out 
that he wasn’t Prince & that he was gay,
the boys who would store their guns in our
lockers, my girl friends and I pretending 
we were gay, kissing each other in the hallway,
on the lips, in front of the teachers, because
designer clothes were expensive and scandal
was free. I didn’t bother telling anyone 
that I was queer and that just about every
single day I didn’t wish I was White, I just
wished that White people weren’t. But
I fished for the Whitest voice and duck tailed 
my hair knowing that one day no one would remember
that I put a gun in my locker, that I kissed
Deidre on her lips, that I sang “the freaks
go out at night” at the top of my lungs & thrust
my hips to “Candy” on my way to the pep rally. No,
what people would remember was that I was
Black. The end. 


Copyright © 2018 by Metta Sáma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I’ve been contemplating how movements that begin in communities of color, or with a single person of color, get co-opted by white people and how those movements take on a different, exclusionary energy when in the hands of their white co-opters—for example, think #MeToo versus Tarana Burke’s Me Too movement. I don’t participate in the former, but I also recognize that it’s ‘safer’ for me to divulge and unpack my stories of sexual violation because of #MeToo. This particular poem, part of a small series, hones in on how trauma tales travel and how, when the person assaulted is a black girl, the assault is overlooked, ignored, erased, and often amplified to fit nicely into the stereotype of the oversexed black woman who is robust enough to simply get over it.”
—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: 2019-01-17

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