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Also because I really really like this and want to talk about it.

Fort Comfort


After “M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit, 1942” by Philip Levine


The nun stood by the chalkboard and

wrote the word America, underlined

it twice and asked: What do you see here?

Elizabeth shot up her hand and said:

It is home. My grandmother came

here so that we could live. The nun

asked the rest of the class: Who else came,

and the children shouted their countries

of origin. Except me. I was the only

black girl in the room and I stared off

toward the sea as I often did during

history class already imagining myself

far away from this place. The nun said:

Who else? And the children were quiet

and the nun said: Some came in chains.

They all looked at me, and I turned

my eyes back toward Fort Comfort

and imagined a ship docking there

and the cargo descending to the pier.

Rachel, a serious girl with brown eyes

which always appeared to be at the verge

of overflowing asked: What happened

to the men before us? The nun said:

We killed them, her voice wavering.

She cleared her throat. We killed them,

and she looked each of us in the eye.

I turned my eyes to the sea again, and

I could just make out the figure of

a woman waving to get my attention,

as if she knew me, as if my staring back

across the time, across the water meant

her survival, meant something. And the nun

went on and on about how nothing could

divide us and I wondered how long 400 years is,

how many bodies, how suffering was

multiplied among them, what is forever.

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