#tbt: “Democracy” by prisoner Stephen Todd Booker, for his mother

Today’s Throwback Thursday poem is “Democracy,” from the book Tug, which was written by Stephen Todd Booker, a prisoner on Florida’s death row.





A dandelion seed of a woman,
She, the daughter hated by her own
Mother and sisters for having two sons—
Because perhaps too she wasn’t so alone
As to agree that black men were evil,
Each an agent of Satan, the devil;
Nor could she revel in the slaughter
Of her brothers, and became outspoken
In refusing to speak ill of anyone.
For that she was persona non grata,
And even mentioning her name was shunned.
It probably helped to kill my Mother,
Never being let back into the warmth
Of what should’ve been a familial sun.

Many another dandelion seed,
While buffeted by the four winds’ reprise,
Will invariably still crave the love
Of her own blood-kin, and suffer the need
To be needed by them—so what if lies.
And that is the way she gets dealt the card
Filling her cupboard with nothing but lard,
As her siblings maintain their faith in fate,
Their girths increasing along with their hate—
Prosperity telling them they have guts,
They telling themselves nigguhmen need nutts.
Across town, Sis will live by candlelight,
And chicken-delight, or take-out chinese.
She will teach her sons to pray on their knees.

Sometimes allmotherfuckinnight she prayed;
Or, she’d writhe in pain, unable to sleep,
Fighting a migraine she had had for days.
In the morning, she’d be a quantum leap
Ahead of her time, and again her long,
Go-getter legs would have her up, swinging—
She, the very embodiment of strong.
Once dead, you would have sworn by the keening
Of her sisters and Mother she was loved.
Once cremating her, that mission was scrubbed.
In the posthaste time, both sisters and Mother
Were squabbling over her meager estate.
One son claimed it his law; the other
Quietly watched them dicker and debate.


You can read more about Booker’s work and his troubled life in the New York Times.