Poetry • Donté Clark

For black mothers who are single…

there are no trophies made to honor their bearing.

no gift I’ve seen fashioned by hands
will measure to what’s
softly curved in her essence

when life
becomes inside of her,
only she carries & brings forth.

only she be a body
made home for newborn when babies bloom
by her breast are we kept.

at her hands are the lips of all
children left behind.

in her arms is the world held
close, cuddled to rest well
by the song beat of her heart.

what else heals bike falls or
playground scrapes like mama’s kisses.

sturdy stance
when sky cries heavy upon her back
she be sequoyah.

the branch for black birds with tired wings.
ain’t no home without mama.

ain’t no soul food without her spirit

she be up before sun do
on bended knees in prayer. The Most High’s ear pressed to her lips.
he sees her heart as ripe fruit
and turns her tears sweet.

After mama prayed,
I’ve seen the first of the month
be kind to mama.

the first of the month speaks soft
to her landlord,
fills her kitchen table, and keep winter warm
when she be a couple hundred short.

Mama be black as love be.
she be black as me,
the earth that brings forth good fruit.

mama be a clenched fist through any crowd.

don’t play that back talk or disrespect
when she’s around.

jazz of the city
talk of the town,
could make the meanest
of the block boys
sit it down.

cause mama’s eye see
where the hands can’t reach.
she be warm water poured into a cup
of mint tea

it’s her blood they bleed to
enrich their soil
all the men she’s raised and we ain’t loyal?

yet left alone

to soak by sorrow, wade in her tears.

who comforts her heart throughout her years?

give where fathers lack, or may not care

mama bear what mama’s bear
& who appreciate what mama’s bear?

cause mama love be black
be black like me

If I be mama’s love, then mama’s love be me.


Donté Clark is a poet and community activist from unincorporated North Richmond, California. He was named poet laureate of Richmond in 2014.

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