“Homer, Louisiana,” a Poem by Mahogany L. Browne

From the Collection Chrome Valley

February 10, 2023  By Mahogany L. Browne


Article continues below

When you are a Black writer in America:
it gets harder to ignore the bodies.

To step over the nameless namesakes
and point apparatus to the sun.

They say writing about the almost dead only gets harder.
My grandma sighs “pray for them baby.”

I think “God! Is this the fight?
To be Black and beautiful and breathing?”

Article continues below



When I say freedom
What I mean is American flag
knotted in the spine & ripped from the root
When I say root
What I mean is Detroit Red
What I mean is Malcolm X
What I mean is Barack Obama
What I mean is history repeating itself
What I mean is history rewriting itself
What I mean is apple pie
with a slave owner on the side



Article continues below

you know you Black
when no one wants to talk
about how your blk hair kink
up into clean circles
how they white ass bathroom floor
don’t hide the coiled curls
like ya mama’s tan tiles do
so you crawl on all fours
with toilet paper tap water damp around your knuckles
so no one notices
that you notice
that your kitchen is as nappy
as they told you it was
& here you be
black ass grown ass woman
on all fours
who stay saying her afro is beautiful
who been saying she love her black
who keep saying she ain’t



When I say root
What I mean is Fannie Lou Hamer
What I mean is size 10 & no laces
What I mean is history repeating itself
What I mean is history rewriting itself
What I mean is apple pie
with a prison warden on the side

When I say side
What I mean is handcuffed & kicked,
stripped & water hosed,
bare & ass & thighs debated on its firm
during prime time
When I say prime time
What I mean is ratchet opera,
hood rat antics turned fabulous,
turned appropriated for honey
boo boo chile consumption
When I say consumption
What I mean is—​O, say can you see
Miley Cyrus & Raven-​Symoné got a TV show called
America Ain’t Got No Talent

Article continues below

But we twerk & shake & can sale anything
on top a black woman’s ass
& turn it solid gold



Your people come from Homer, Louisiana

& all you know is a tale of the night when

Article continues below


Your grandpa Lester
stole your great grandma Octavia
& great grandpa Nell
from the spitshine sharecropper
into a dirt-​poor freedom up North.

How they threatened to lynch him
& his dog before daybreak,
how his slick mouth was a gunshot wound

& you never heard him whistle Dixie no.

Only his southern twang riding high in Oakland, CA
brown cracked fists shield his eyes from the top of the porch
every morning like prayer
—& watch the sun rise


Excerpted from Chrome Valley by Mahogany L. Browne. Copyright © 2023. Available from Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company.

Mahogany L. Browne
Mahogany L. Browne
Mahogany L. Browne, selected as one of the Kennedy Center’s Next 50, is the executive director of JustMedia, founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair, and artistic director of Urban Word NYC. Her most recent works are Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice and the young adult novel Vinyl Moon.

More Story
Bruce Schneier on How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules and How to Bend Them Back Hosted by Andrew Keen, Keen On features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the economic,...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.