A Black woman learns Ireland’s history by bus



It took a civil rights museum

to lift the skirts of the maiden

city of Derry. Here’s where I saw

her Seamus Heaney tattoo.


Belfast, the stamp at

the bottom of the Titanic.

Here, I breathe in an industry

defined by ghosts,


then it’s back to you, Dublin—

how I got sweet on you

I do not know. Blame that

ancestor long ago- let’s hope


it was consensual. But the

words that crawl your streets

align with my fault lines, neither

of us accustomed to joy.


On the road to Limerick,

crumbling forts shimmer

and shy like mirages. On the river

Shannon, swans play their part


near King John’s Castle.

Here Frederick Douglass honed

his pleas for justice. Shivers down

my bare brown arms.


But it’s Newgrange where

stacked ancient stones call

my blood to rise. Two times a year

the sun flings a season’s new song


into a quartz cavern. Here lifetimes

were spent bent building temples

to echo eons. At the entrance, water

collects in a giant rock’s hollowed hand.


A wizened man whispers to me

dip your fingers & touch what ails you.

Back-up (An Ode to Weathering)

for Arline Geronimus


“And the colored girls go ‘Doo do doo do doo do do doo’…”

—Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed



Mix ancestral and everyday trauma, African call,

American response. Drum it on tight tendons,

skin, suffused and shiny, soft tissues singing of

soreness, observing it like a holiday. (It’s just Tuesday.)

Speed it up 7.5 times, let blood pressure reach the high notes,

diabetes, the low ones. Let obesity morbidly thump


the bass lines, while glycogen’s fight or flight hit

the high hat. Isn’t each day, each step outside in America

a scream? Listen to the resounding soundtrack:

you don’t belong here, go back to Africa and that original hit “Nigger!”

always number one with a bullet. When the school’s White


gaze singles out your son, implore adrenaline and cortisol

to slow their ragged runs. When applying for a mortgage with a

lower interest rate; after the next White businessman

lets the door slam in your face, tell this body not to hum its fate-


fear, anxiety, and chronic depression, the constant refrain.

Inflammation as the blood races to the mic again and again.

Measure one, discrimination, maternal mortality, measure two


heart disease, socio-economic conditions, tune up the fibroids,

open up the throat, dig down, hold that note. Black women know


how to sing back-up. Our pain always makes for perfect pitch.

Teri Ellen Cross Davis’ poetry collection Haint (Gival Press) won the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and journals including: Not Without Our Laughter: poems of joy, humor, and sexuality, Poetry Ireland Review and Tin House. She lives in Silver Spring, MD.