Coal Black Voices The Poets  
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Shanna Smith  
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i like carved out paths
nicely mowed runways
the salute of oaks bowing
pussywillows applauding in my sway

i don’t mind sauntering last
the way prepared
and i think harriet understands
she and sojourner shaking heads
of wildflowers at me
catcalling “go on, girl!”
as i step onto well worn footprints
it’s their hands that press
forward my back
rooted. rooting.

“didn’t i knock over trees for you, girl?”
ida b. huffs at my spine
as they together shape smooth
branches worry whipped into it
i hang onto them
sanding my skull with the roughness of their palms
kneading to set my mind
before the world hardens it

this is no pampering
as i teeter in the archway
peek out at miles of the untamed crowd
where i must add my own step
no, this laying on of hands
wills instructions
mary bethune solidly lifting my chin
“didn’t you read mine?”
she straightens my shoulders soberly
fannie lou works her battered limbs,
use them as my divining rod

this ain’t no civil rite
these women were angry
at my 1968 settled softness
since they overcame
and i arrived
now at mid point in my life
i switch seductively there
chosen by these sistas to model
my own stuff
miss daisy thrusting me a ticket
bating me sharply
“we bought you that ticket, girl!”

and they pushed.

shanna l. smith




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