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Giving Mary Grace

For Mary Turner

History will submit to you | I will too |

Eventually when we are color-pleased | when your dirt speaks |

I will be left | dumb-still |

I won’t refer you back to life |

There’s been enough of that |

I falter | in guilt | at your reanimating |

Now I am trying to unbeast you |

Having walked with myth and imagination |

I thought I counted every stone. The walls |

grew closer |

| I walk in a terrible circle |

Should I quiet my poet, yes |

I wanted to die too, yes |

But concealed that adolescence | like a hymn |

through me |

Through me wasn’t always the answer |

| I am black people |

and am a series of decisions |

Shall I let my again speak for me, no |

Agains stain the clear water |

Can I offer you up to speak, if |

Only if | you are compelled to |

I wasn’t finished with myself, I |

Where story and desire | collide |

with terrible friction |

How full of stories are you, many |

I wake up late too often |

how I am inside of night |

as in, is your strength blacker than my weakness |

is black? |

Perry Graham and Elizabeth "Betsy" Johnson |

Mary Hattie Graham, Mary Turner (1885- |

Hazel "Hayes" Turner (1892- and their unborn child- |


JOSHUA BURTON is a poet and educator from Houston, Texas, and received his MFA in poetry from Syracuse University. His work can be found in Mississippi Review, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, Conduit, TriQuarterly, Black Warrior Review, Grist, and Indiana Review. His first chapbook is currently out with Ethel and his debut poetry collection is forthcoming in the spring of 2023 with the University of Wisconsin Press.


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