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by Ellen June Wright

(for Angela, enslaved, Jamestown VA 1619)



If America is Babylon / and you are an exile / newly arrived among pagans / Catholic, ‘Ngolan, Black, woman / you already know how to pray / so you pray believing something will happen / then the days go by / and the years go by / nothing changes / the sea is still a barrier between you and your home / you still have a perimeter you cannot cross / you are subject to a man’s will, a woman’s will, even their children / you pray holding onto remnants of faith / the way the drowning hold on to floating debris / exile in Babylon would be 70 years / your exile would be hundreds / only death would bring freedom / Christ’s mercy / a mystery / a question whose answer you never knew.

ellen june write

Ellen June Wright’s poetry was published in Atlanta Review, Caribbean Writer, Gordon Square Review, Naugatuck River Review, New York Quarterly, Obsidian, Paterson Literary Review, Plume, Solstice, Tar River Poetry, The South Carolina Review, Tulsa Review, Black Sunflowers Poetry Press – SMEOP 2 anthology HOT and When Women Speak Poetry Anthology and is forthcoming in Cimarron Review. She is a Cave Canem and Hurston/Wright alumna. Her work was also selected as The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week for their website and was featured in the article, Exceptional Prose Poetry From Around the Web: June 2021 by Jose Hernandez Diaz and she received six Pushcart Prize nominations between 2021 and 2022. Ellen can be found on Twitter @EllenJuneWrites and here.