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Who You Want to See

Tara Betts


My cousin’s slight freckles

are no camouflage against

our likeness. Her husband

relishes the same samples

of bass & steam release

loops in hip hop chorus

recited by women named

after kitchen spice shakers.


We banter on Ellison & Brooks

then we discuss Chicago, home

that kisses me hard every day,

and we laugh about my fellow

poet-writer-scholar-friends, all

dipped in the dyes that compel

us to Howard’s green campus

steeped in Brown, Clifton,

Morrison and Baraka. This is

lineage too. They were all there,

except me.


My cousin shares drinks with them,

sees them as my kin in varied sepias,

says you must know her, meaning me.

They ask my name, stand silent, cock heads

like question marks trapped in their quiet

ellipses. My cousin, closer to paper’s tone

than ink’s, recounts all. She asks me,

Have they seen you? I want to fill

my pause with an answer I know well.

People see what they want, not tangled

bloodlines that tell on all of us often.

No, they don’t see me sometimes.

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