Ladders

By Elizabeth Alexander b. 1962 Elizabeth Alexander
Filene’s department store
near nineteen-fifty-three:
An Aunt Jemima floor
Display. Red bandanna,

apron holding white rolls
of black fat fast against
the bubbling pancakes, bowls
and bowls of pale batter.

This is what Donna sees
across the “Cookwares” floor,
and hears “Donessa?” Please,
this can not be my aunt.

Father’s long-gone sister,
nineteen-fifty-three. “Girl?”
Had they lost her, missed her?
This is not the question.

This must not be my aunt .
Jemima? Pays the rent.
Family mirrors haunt
their own reflections.

Ladders. Sisters. Nieces.
As soon a live Jemima
as a buck-eyed rhesus
monkey. Girl? Answer me.

Elizabeth Alexander, “Ladders”  Copyright © 1990 by the Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: The Venus Hottentot (Graywolf Press, 2004)

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Poet Elizabeth Alexander b. 1962

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

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 Elizabeth  Alexander

Biography

Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem, New York, but grew up in Washington, DC, the daughter of former United States Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman, Clifford Alexander Jr. She holds degrees from Yale, Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her PhD. Currently the chair of African American Studies at Yale, Alexander is a highly respected teacher and . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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