poetry quarterly

10th anniversary

LANGSTON HUGHES TRIBUTE ISSUE

Remica L. Bingham

 

MY MOTHER RECALLS PROTESTS

Not the news of it:

how the city would level the three-tiered building where six
of her siblings marched in burgundy caps and gowns—all bought
with quarters her mother set aside each week.

But the actual movement:

students bused away from their homes and Champs Restaurant
across the street—the red grand-opening ribbon cut by Ali, after he’d
shaken hands and thrown air-jabs, running through their auditorium.

Not the way they came:

hundreds of high school kids storming black middle schools.
Their marching like thunder, their pouring through halls
and classrooms like summer rain after drought.

But the way children followed:

battling teachers then climbing through first-story windows.
Their stride—like Daniel’s into the lion’s den. Every student rising
from a desk or swing set an Elijah called away to peace.

Not the sight of those she knew:

her friend Michael—whose bible-toting mama chased him down the street
after hearing he’d cut school then had the nerve to stand in front of
City Hall chanting Hell no! We won’t go!—on the six ‘o clock news.

But one boy no one recognized:

who—instead of shouting in unison with the crowd—ran screaming, shaking
like a man consumed with fire. His distorted face clouding the camera,
his high-pitched refrain: Where else can we go? What else do we have?

 

 


Remica L. Bingham is the Writing Competency Coordinator at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, VA. She earned an MFA from Bennington College and is a Cave Canem fellow. Her work has been published in New Letters, Callaloo, and Gulf Coast. Bingham's first book, Conversion, won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award and was published by Lotus Press. A book of her selected poems, The Seams of Memory, was translated into Arabic and published in 2010 in conjunction with the Kalima Project.

 

Published in Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2011.