Deborah Paredez

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Deborah Paredez received a PhD from Northwestern University. She is the author of the poetry collection This Side of Skin (Wings Press, 2002). Paredez is a cofounder and codirector of CantoMundo, a national organization supporting Latinx poets and poetry. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.

by this poet


for Deborah Johnson (Akua Njeri)

—Composed on the 45th anniversary of Fred Hampton's murder, Chicago IL—

you didn’t look

down or back, spent

the fractured minutes

studying each crease

and curve of the law-

men’s faces

so later you could tell


Since before the war there was always work.
In '38, Papa sweating all day
for the WPA, Mrs. Wright
hiring Mama and her sisters to mind
the children and the wash—plenty to watch
after in white folks' homes, too much to name.

Took my diploma when they called my name.


Rate your pain the physical
therapist instructs and I am trying
not to do what they say
women do lowballing the number
trying hard not to try so hard
to be the good patient scattered
assurances lining the aisles like
dead petals and me left
holding nothing but what’s been