In honor of National Poetry Month, we’re featuring the poetry of Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic and excerpting meditations on navigating the early days of Covid-19, celebrating Blackness, and thinking beyond.
In “Spring Mix,” Opal Moore watches a brown wren care for her young. Hurried yet resolute, the bird lives a simple life, unburdened by human problems.
She flits. Frets. Undeterred.
She knows the world as it is. No
conspiracy, no theory. Life, for her,
is life. Open throats and beak. Trust,
her leaving marked by each return.
“Memorial Day 2021,” her second poem in Bigger Than Bravery, is dedicated to George Floyd and asks, “What does it cost to be kind?”
Opal Moore’s poetry collections include Lot’s Daughter and Why Johnny Can’t Learn.
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s “Lockdown Prayer” captures the listless feeling of lockdown and reflects on a lost sense of normalcy.
For this coping this air
pushing through vents
this car sitting outside a reminder
I can’t go anywhere
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s poetry collections include The Glory Gets, which won the 2018 Harper Lee Award, and The Age of Phillis, which won the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work–Poetry and was longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Poetry. Her novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, was a finalist for the 2021 Kirkus Prize and longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction.
Samaa Abdurraqib’s “November 7, 2020” shares a glimpse into how people connected and celebrated election results amidst pandemic isolation.
Everyone had been holding their shoulders up for longer than
so the air was full of gasps of release.
Car horns rhythmic, chaotic, and all in a line.
More of Samaa Abdurraqib’s work can be found in the collection I Speak For Myself: American Women on Being Muslim.
In a poem dedicated to Annie Pearl Long, Glenis Redmond, and others, “How to Make a Tea Cake” by L. Lamar Wilson folds feelings of love into a dessert recipe.
He & she left, how sweet their unhinged bliss. Taste
& seethe browned sugar & an egg you’ve whisked,
See how they dimple the dough—not unlike
The dimples the sight of such simple wonder incites
In your own kissed mien—how vanilla, lemon,
Buttermilk & baking soda take the heat off
The salt & nutmeg. Feel the leavening happen
His second poem in the collection, “Burden Hill Apothecary & Babalú-Ayé Prepare Stinging Nettle Tea,” takes on the persona of an ancestor who survived the lynchings of Black folk in Burden Hill, Florida. His piece highlights the resilience of the Black community in the face of persecution—“We won’t die. We your worst nightmare.”
Lamar Wilson’s work can be found in his poetry collection, Sacrilegion.
“Haircut, May 2020 in Decatur, GA” by Kamilah Aisha Moon recalls the isolation of the early pandemic—the stark shift between mundane and unfamiliar.
In my barber’s home
instead of the shop,
her young daughter
in the living room
like it’s normal
that she’s not
In “Another Quarantine Blues,” she reflects on the simple comfort of nature amidst the unexpectedly changing world.
If spared, I swear
to savor sacred time
on my small patch
of borrowed earth,
letting the trees offer
what they always have
as natural, priceless
silent, holy company!
Kamilah Aisha Moon’s two poetry collections are She Has a Name and Starshine & Clay.