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A Descendant's Gift

I am a scholarly descendent of Dr. Percy Julian.

Early 20th century chemist,


Firebombed at his home,

Half-heartedly praised.

(Well, the Black chemist award should be good enough, right?)

Set up a lab in Mexico.

Black accepted by brown.

Made cortisone from yams.

Relieved pain in hands like claws.

Made foams that quenched fires on burning ships.

Eased glaucoma with physostigmine,

The first medical aminal,

Where two nitrogen atoms join hands with carbon,

Rings frozen in fused embrace.

Two centuries later I follow

With new aminals for animals.

Penetrating the brain

Of worshippers of violence.

You know…humans.





With fists raised, knives bared, guns cocked.

The fever to destroy quenched like the fires on those ships.

An age of peace?

No, no!

I don't get a Nobel Prize.

I run,

‘Cause I'm a terrorist now.

I inhibit free will, you see.


The alphabet goons are comin' for me.

They want to know how I did it

'Cause the aminal breaks down

Before the animals can break it down

Into its parts

And remake it

And use it

When they want.

On Black

And Brown

And maybe Yellow, if they get uppity.

But I fly

Out to an island.

New name, new face, new prints.

Added viral DNA to mine

Scrambling forensics.

Still Black though,

Always a brother.

Send packages on boats

To the Black diaspora.

To put in skin creams and lotions and Black hair products.

So when a brother gets pulled over

For driving while Black,

And a devil cop gets that itch

And pulls out a gun,

Then he takes a whiff.

And he puts the gun away.


He lets you off with a warning,

“You have a nice day now."

- Miguel O. Mitchell, Dreams and Nightmares 117;

2022 Rhysling Award nominee, Long Poem category

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