Online Exclusive

Two Poems

            After Richmond Barthé’s sculpture, Head of a Negro


Then you read the title, which is Head of a Negro.
            Child, you think, a boy, you see. His cheekbones,

high diagonals, soft with fat, padded, and the eyes
            spaced apart, the remnants of a young, endearing

open-eyed look onto the world. Like a child’s,
            the contour rounded jaw, light cleft in the chin

with the foreshadowing of adulthood there.
            The forehead will lose its smooth plain. The jaw

line will cut a defined edge you recognize
            in the profile of your own son’s face, pre-

adolescent, his brown skin bronze like
            the bronze cast over terracotta. The sculptor left
the eyes hollowed, unfilled, yet they glance
            downwards. It’s the look of a boy caught
in his own thoughts, how your son looks
reckoning with his own dialectics. When you look

at the careful left-sided part sculpted in the hair,
            and the curls’ lap of brushed waves—you know

someone cares for the child, has taught him to care
            well for himself, the hair brushed so—


You can imagine—your father says,
            afternoon sunlight, hitting the mute button,

in his living room arm chair, the tv news hour on,
            the day’s overview, which he watches faithfully,

 and recounts how lives are broken, breaking,
            videoed, broadcast, by which he means,

the young Black people, who he’s angered to see
            captured this way and exposed, and often

dead, in mind if not body, in brutal circumstances
            for all to view,—he says, who gets to turn away?

Who’s watching themselves dying? Again, and again,
            he warns those closest to him;

he who is more often sunk by what it takes to live
            in this country, to drive down the street, enter a store,

and so now chooses to retreat to what he sees
            through the sliding glass doors:

his bright impatiens in their beds, apple trees,
            to which he earlier rose on his cane and leaned

until among their snow blossoms alongside the bees,
            surrounded in floral-sweet fragrance,

from where your father says, And, no one wants you to be
            bitter. He says that the eyes of this world are closed

to so many of us. He says to you—when you are
            six months into your pregnancy with your not-yet-

born son—anywhere else, across the world, your child
            may grow up, safer, intact, he says, than here at home.


Our Days Were Ordinary

my daughter on the walk to school my daughter along her preferred route my daughter with the morning glories how do they behave their velvet midnight-blue faces morning open to the sun faces dropped at dusk my daughter a fine bright summer morning my daughter inquires as to when and how and if my daughter guzzles the honeysuckles my daughter strips papery skin from a eucalyptus my daughter reveals the trunk’s cream-beneath my daughter proposes to peel her bark my daughter asks about ability after all and although my daughter clutches my arm my daughter queries darker than her preference to grow up to become my daughter hunches to the bee nudged in the red hibiscus my daughter buzzes at the bee my daughter says sorry mommy my daughter says can you shed


Chanda Feldman is the author of Approaching the Fields (LSU Press). Her recent poems appear in Gettysburg ReviewPoetry, and The Southern Review. She has received awards and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Cave Canem Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the National Endowment for the Arts, among others, and she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Feldman is an assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College.