Alumnae Poets

Jamaica Baldwin '08

Photo of Jamaica Baldwin. She is smiling warmly at the camera. The red and yellow accents of her shirt stand out against the soft blue background.
Jamaica Baldwin hails from Santa Cruz, CA by way of Seattle. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Prairie Schooner, Guernica, The Adroit Journal, World Literature Today, The Missouri Review, and TriQuarterly among others. She is a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, was the 2019 winner of the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference Contest in Poetry, and a 2020 Tupelo Press Berkshire Prize Runner Up. Her work has been supported by Hedgebrook, Furious Flower, and the Jack Straw Writers Program. Jamaica holds an MFA from Pacific University Oregon and currently lives in Lincoln, NE where she is pursuing her PhD at the University of Nebraska Lincoln with a focus in Creative Writing (poetry), African Diasporan Literature, and Women and Gender Studies. www.jamaicabaldwin.com

Select Poems

Let me go back to my father

in the body of my mother the day he told her 

having black children won't save you when the revolution comes. 

Let me do more than laugh, 

like she did. 

 

Let me go back to my mother and do more 

than roll my eyes when she tells me, 

I think deep down, in a past life, I was a black blues singer. 

 

My mother remembers the convent 

where she worked after I was born;

the nuns who played with me while she cleaned. 

 

My father remembers the bedroom window

of their first apartment; his tired body 

climbing through. It was best, 

 

they agreed, if she signed the lease alone. 

 

Scholars conclude:

the myths of violence that surround the black male 

body protect the white female body

 

from harm. I conclude:

race was not not a factor in my parent's attraction. 

I am the product of their curiosity, their vengeance, their need.

 

They rescued each other from stories scripted 

onto their bodies. They tasted forbidden and devoured each other 

whole. 

 

Let me build a house 

where their memories diverge.

 

Let me lick clean

these bones. 

 

—Originally published in The Missouri Review