the difficult miracle of black magic in america or
one more reason to listen to nina simone[1]

they will call you wicked. think you incapable

improbable. a dream deferred or accepted by

affirmative action. they will say you are unbelievable.

a ripe thing for picking off. on. poking at. locking up.

looking through. over. kept under watch. in margins.

choke holds. none of this is true.


when you’re young gifted and black

your soul’s intact


magic is mistaken. yours is magnificent

incomprehensible, blues and bone and blood

memory is magic, meaning you must remember

this is not an illusion. magic meaning divine

lightning in the crossroads of your palm.

magic meaning resilience, meaning every day

something has tried to kill you— magic meaning

you are a miracle. fix your lips to say


when you’re young gifted and black

your soul’s intact


they will call and claim you are many things

some of this is true. you are wondrous after all

brilliant. your feet a rumble of drums over earth

magic meaning you are a mirror to reckon with

a light to step into. one day you will burst and see.

magic meaning today, you are here. you are here.


when you’re young gifted and black

your soul’s intact


[1] The title of this poem is a riff on June Jordan’s essay-title “The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America Or, Something Like a Sonnet For Phillis Wheatley.” The refrain is from Nina Simone’s To Be Young Gifted and Black. The last two lines in the second stanza reference Lucille Clifton’s poem “won’t you celebrate with me” and my poem “mercy visits the schooner phillis.”