Linda Hodge Bromberg Award in Poetry
Winning Poem

All Black Boys Look Alike

If you sit a few feet away
from this hand fan that once advertised
Amos Moses Barber Shop in New Orleans,
or if you hold it under a dimly glowing light
in a darkened, half-empty room,

           all you see are eighteen black boys,

their moon-shaped heads
tilting in slightly different directions,
hair trimmed low or nearly bald,
and foreheads bulging
like summer-blooming bulbs.

Their faces tell nothing
           of what they feel and see,

                    what men they will become,
          and what they don’t know
          of days they have yet to live,

when eyes that look at them will shut,
and they will be unseen, untaught,
passed by, forgotten, called other names,
or arrested, handcuffed, and jailed
for crimes they didn’t commit,

or maybe they will vanish
in the night inside an alley, a forest
or a river, or be left to dangle
          and drip from the branch of a tree,

and like clouds of smoke,
their brown skin and charred dreams
          will eclipse the rays beaming
          toward the feet of their children.

Inside brightly-lit, crowded rooms
built of race-etched stone walls
that gird and divide their country,
these boys are the faces of all black men.

 

Volume 12.1 - June 2019

John Warner Smith has published four collections of poetry. His fifth collection, Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in America, is forthcoming in 2019. Smith received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and is a Cave Canem Fellow. He and his wife Narva live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.