25 days after I am born

Remica Bingham-Risher

a man is killed in Mobile, Alabama. It is 1981, nearest what some will call the last lynching in America. The business of our nation goes forward—a star leads and hostages are freed while Michael Donald walks from the corner store. He is 19, the youngest of six, a college boy. He will miss class the next morning and Sunday dinner; he will not bring the cigarettes to his sister. Those weeks after spiriting me into the world, my mother watches the news, looks over at my father too frequently, calls his name each time he heads to another room—delirious in her exhaustion and fear—where was he, would he disappear? And the little girl, what world was this for her to enter? Crosses burning on the county courthouse lawn, then other sons with ropes and guns, looking for anyone, find Michael Donald walking, ask him for directions, a sign for old haints. They show him the rifle and what can he do but be forced into the car, driven past this life into the next. Years later, in an unimaginable victory, his mother will bankrupt the KKK, demanding they pay for her loss and others, while my mother, like so many, carries me daily to school around the corner, insists on watching until I am beyond the large blue doors. Mothers are God again, and they will not go quietly; they know everything born will need to be fed, even children hung from low branches in their jean jackets and muddy tennis shoes, carried out of the wood into the light of everyone's suffering.

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Remica Bingham-Risher, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, is a Cave Canem fellow and Affrilachian Poet. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Writer’s Chronicle, Callaloo and Essence. She is the author of Conversion (Lotus, 2006) winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, What We Ask of Flesh (Etruscan, 2013) shortlisted for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and Starlight & Error (Diode, 2017) winner of the Diode Editions Book Award and finalist for the Library of Virginia Book Award. Her memoir, Soul Culture: Black Poets, Books and Questions That Grew Me Up, was published by Beacon Press (2022). Her newest book, Room Swept Home, is a work of poems, historical and family photographs (Wesleyan University Press, 2024). She is the Director of Quality Enhancement Plan Initiatives at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, where she resides with her husband and children.

Cover of Room Swept Home

Middletown, Connecticut

Wesleyan University

"You won't leave Room Swept Home without some joyful-noise-making, some weeping, some humming, some wild pride. I leave soothed and startled into recognition. I leave proclaiming my honest-to-God name. Remica Bingham-Risher ushers in the voices of all my kin. Her grandmothers are my own, are yours, are ours."
— Courtney Faye Taylor

"From the footnotes of history, Remica Bingham-Risher's poems skillfully call forth the ancestors whose blood fills her heart and fuels her poetic mind. Room Swept Home reminds us that our trauma is not the beginning or the end of our story."
— Amanda Johnson

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