The year Mother arrived on Ellis Island, the heavyweight fighter,
Jack Johnson, began serving a one-year sentence in Leavenworth
for violating the Mann Act, but everybody knew

Jack was doing time for loving a whole lot of white women
and each and every one of them every which-way.
Mother, fresh from hibiscus and the Caribbean Sea,

knew nothing of it; didn’t know that some who thought
if you’re light, well alright, would look at her and wonder
is she a white girl…?

I never asked about color when I could have; never thought of
the past as prologue because in the Civil Rights-free-sex-60s,
black was a beauty

and I didn’t want to think about the pale man who had
bedded my Grannie; that my own Mother was grey pearl,
chipped tooth, the other white meat…

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LYNNE THOMPSON is the author of Start With a Small Guitar (What Books Press) and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award. In 2018, Jane Hirshfield selected her manuscript Fretwork as the winner of the Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize and the collection was published in 2019.. Thompson is the recipient of multiple awards among them an Individual Art Fellowship from the City of Los Angeles, a Tucson Literary Award, and a finalist nod from the Derricotte-Eady Chapbook Prize. Her most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, New England Review, Pleiades, American Poetry Journal, 2020 Best American Poetry, as well as the anthologies The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles and Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. Thompson serves on the Boards of Cave Canem and the Los Angeles Review of Books and is Chair of the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, Scripps College.

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