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 Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

For Halle Berry on Oscar Night


I hold my breath until you make it up the last step.
Don't fall now, I whisper to the screen.
Be careful. Your tears start and I want to pick

my teeth nonchalantly. Who cares about these
white folks' once-in-a-century awards?
I feel like a natural sucker when I wipe

my eyes with you. Why am I weeping?
For you and the awful weight of a small
naked man in your grasp? Is it for the roll

call you give: Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll,
Dorothy Dandridge who killed her beautiful self
and we pretended we didn't understand?

Maybe I'm crying because I am reminded
of the way my mother used to hold
onto her children: not by the hand—too easy

for her progeny to make a break. No, she held
tight to the wrist so we couldn't escape her.
We knew we couldn't run past that sister's embrace.