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May I Ask

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May I ask you who
your grandmother died

Her blackness
you pretended we’d assume
a servant’s      in the photograph

May I ask
did she die herself?

I know you all light
under an umbrella     don’t tan
and she could be seen

as she had been made too
dark for what the son do.

I saw her years ago after she died
And again today in the market
I asked her     I had to

know if she was who I knew    ...    
“Only two things you really has to —

tha’s to stay black and die.”
Black, yes, but if black leads some to pretend
that you have died

except you’re black and alive
who are you?

She is as hundreds of years old as
the stories of the lies
of grandmothers in the cellar    ...    

May I ask who
your grandmother      died if she died
herself?

Source: Poetry (November 2015)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Poetry magazine

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May I Ask

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