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To the Woman Standing Behind Me in Line Who Asks Me How Long This Black History Month Is Going to Last

Marilyn Buck


the whole month
even if it is the shortest month
a good time in this prison life

you stare at me
and ask me why I think
February is so damned fine

I take a breath
prisoners fight for February
African voices cross razor wire
cut through the flim-flam
of Amerikkan history
call its cruelties out
confirm the genius of survival
creation and
plain ole enduring

a celebration!


the woman drops her gaze
looks away and wishes
she had not asked
confused that white skin did not guarantee
a conversation she wanted to have

she hasn't spoken to me since
I think I'll try to stand
in line with her

March 1998
Published in Sojourner

Marilyn Buck photo 1971 Marilyn Buck in San Francisco, 1971 (photo: Jeff Blankfort)