Ann Chandonnet’s “A Special Fear” after Elizabeth Catlett


Elizabeth Catlett, Cartas, 1986, lithograph, Hickory Museum of Art Collection, Museum purchase in part funded by the Hickory Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., 2013.9


Ann Chandonnet
after an exhibit of the work of Elizabeth Catlett

    “…in this drear day when human brotherhood is mockery and a snare.”–W.E.B. DuBois

 The enemy snickers, hand over mouth;
offers the wrong change;
spies in convex mirrors;
refuses service.
The enemy has ceased measuring sand in skulls,
assumed a sleek veneer,
gone underground–
but it haunts us still.
And so I hug a special fear for my loved ones.

My loved ones are strumming guitars,
skipping rope,
thrilling at a kiss,
learning to read,
nursing an infant,
hoeing crops.
Here is a tearfil
Miss Ceilie with her Africa letters.
Yet I mull a special fear.

I see them hauled aloft by nooses,
dying on wet ground,
whipped bloody,
marching as to war,
denied the valley for the rocky heights,
about to be stepped on, pissed on,
pushing mops,
drowned in sacks,
attacked by dogs,
sore ashamed,
the target of fibs,
victims of a million slights,

(Nightmares smite me hip and thigh.
Outrages–hissing vipers–
coil around my pillow.
Bearden nudges me in the ribs.
Jamieson crooks an elegant index.)

Canvases pile up like Paris cobblestones,
marching as to war.
Back alley, black alley.
I want my fine black lines sure as Picasso’s,
sure as cricket legs bowing like violins.
My shadows must be perfect, subtle
as the shadows at the bottom of sparrow tracks
in the snow.

Perhaps I carry water in a basket–
still I have a special fear.
I frame it,
I send it out.

About missmellibrary

A children's librarian who loves to excite youth about reading!
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2 Responses to Ann Chandonnet’s “A Special Fear” after Elizabeth Catlett

  1. Bud Caywood says:

    This is an incredible poem!

  2. G. sanford says:

    These poets are very talented. Ann’s poem was especially touching…it was evident that the group was impressed with her take on the piece of artwork. We enjoy coming to these events and look forward to coming again.

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