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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Frank X Walker

Set Point

for Arthur Ashe

“When you brushed away the gentility

his statement was more militant than mine.”

—Harry Edwards


Arthur forever opened the Open

when he took down

a different bull, Connors,

but his brother Johnnie’s sacrifice

—a second tour of ’Nam

allowed him the privilege

of serving his country

on the clay court.


It was 1968.

They were silencing dissent,

forever quieting loud voices.

Like Jackie Robinson before him

he did not strut to the finish line,

yet he arrived with his dignity intact.

He showed us other ways to win.

Taught all who would listen

that taking break point

ends the match

if you serve the ball

with a cannon

or with a subtle slice.


for Langston Hughes
In an era
when high yella dandies
were all ladies’ men,
in the open
and being a man’s man
meant something different,
I wonder if well-put-together,
well-read, well-spoken,
and well-traveled
was enough camouflage
to shield you from additional
and disdain.
Dear Langston,
I hope you were as loved
in the dark
as John Brown was
feared in the light?
His good Lord
wanted us unshackled.
yours   wanted all of us


The first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker is Professor of English and African American and Africana Studies and Director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Kentucky in Lexington where he founded pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. He has published eleven award-winning collections of poetry, including his latest, Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar, and Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride, which he adapted for stage. Voted one of the most creative professors in the south, Walker, a Danville native, coined the term “Affrilachia” and co-founded the Affrilachian Poets. A Cave Canem fellow, his honors also include a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry.

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