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The Wall, and: Affirmative Action Babies
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The Wall

for JB

I never asked about your father.
And I won't pretend to understand
anything about removing a name,
or assuming one. Sound, I know.
And how a certain laughter, too,
is hand-sewn and set to memory,
like braiding, or the way someone
learns how to bead a mask. Oh how
we high-step beneath our painted
umbrellas down the dim-lit avenues
of the mind. Think of those who
must have loved Ali simply because
he was brash; muscle shifting like
smoked glass underwater, the dark
and ever-widening eclipse of his mouth,
his hector, his braggadocio, a black
and curling sweetness in the ear
like a caramelized orange. Think
of those who loved, too, the swift
cacophony, the quick falling consonants
of his so-called slave name. His father
must have known before the press;
Ali, Ali, how the name must have set
something unnamed adrift. You see,
I don't own my sons, but I'm sure now
I've mortgaged the brightest corners
where I danced until I couldn't breathe
and I sang without thinking. How
could they ever know, what is there
for any of us to understand?

Affirmative Action Babies

Well, isn't this the world
you wanted, where the red-tiled
roofs and stucco don't remind
anyone of the conqueror,
and the wealthy are so far
removed even from the story
of money that theirs becomes
a politics shaped of pity,
or better, a dark geography
of need, where the body stands
transmutable as a mollusk
or weathering the redbay ambrosia
beetle's assault on a conifer.
Of course, our parents say,
we're living our own reward,
as if earning is earning
and our education, a handstamp,
an entry onto this bright island.

Amaud Jamaul Johnson  

Amaud Jamaul Johnson is the author of Darktown Follies (Tupelo, 2013) and Red Summer, winner of the Dorset Prize. Born and raised in Compton, California, his honors include Wallace Stegner and Cave Canem fellowships. His poetry appears in Harvard Review, Eleven Eleven, and Gulf Coast. He teaches in the graduate program in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Copyright © 2013 Louisiana State University Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Amaud Jamaul Johnson. "The Wall, and: Affirmative Action Babies." Southern Review 49.3 (2013): 475-476. Project MUSE. Web. 18 Jul. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Johnson, A. J.(2013). The Wall, and: Affirmative Action Babies. Southern Review 49(3), 475-476. Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved July 18, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Amaud Jamaul Johnson. "The Wall, and: Affirmative Action Babies." Southern Review 49, no. 3 (2013): 475-476. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 18, 2013).
T1 - The Wall, and: Affirmative Action Babies
A1 - Amaud Jamaul Johnson
JF - Southern Review
VL - 49
IS - 3
SP - 475
EP - 476
PY - 2013
PB - Louisiana State University Press
SN - 2168-5541
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_review/v049/49.3.johnson.html
N1 - Volume 49, Number 3, Summer 2013
ER -


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