To be clear, this is America
& we are not deer
We are not deer
We are not dear
The Emperor’s Deer

There is a reason why, in times of political duress, one sees poetry books more prominently displayed in bookstores. There is a reason why readership spikes, why poets write more essays, calling people to the word, to the world. It is because poets are our fiercest ambassadors, our biggest advocates. It is because for poets, focusing on presence in a volatile world—well, that’s just business as usual.

Moon’s Starshine & Clay offer a much-needed testament to the world’s beauty and shortcomings. The poems in this collection occupy a broad range of perspectives—historical, personal, forgotten (or, in a culture of white supremacy and militarized police presence, erased). The poems move gracefully and resoundingly from page to page. While they present many characters and points-of-view, the most astounding component of the manuscript is how not okay these realities are—the realities that deadly systems of oppression manifest in approximately one million ways every day, every moment.

Can’t live here. Can’t live upright now. Just here,
he was. Too quiet, nothing bangs the screen door
or needs new shoes, nothing eats my cooking
or does homework at the kitchen table.
The sky closing, my daughter’s mind collapsing
like her baby brother on the grass.
Samir Ricer, Tamir’s Mother

Business as usual, here, is survival. Which, one can argue, is what those living in margins write about. This collection is beautiful and harrowing and terribly vital. There’s nothing ordinary, nothing common about Moon’s writing, which holds a bright light to darkness and says, come forward.

Starshine & Clay
By Kamilah Aisha Moon
Four Way Books
Paperback, 9871935536956, 128 pp.
September 2017

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