You cannot see the Mothership in space,
It and She being made of the same thing.

All our mothers hover there in the ceaseless
blue-black, watching it ripple and dim

to the prized pale blue in which we spin—
we who are Black, and you, too. Our mothers

know each other there, fully and finally.
They see what some here see and call anomaly:

the way the sight of me might set off
a shiver in another mother’s son: a deadly

silent digging in: a stolid refusal to budge:
the viral urge to stake out what on solid ground

is Authority, and sometimes also Territory.
Our mothers, knowing better, call it Folly.

Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Poet, librettist, and translator Tracy K. Smith served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States and is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University, where she also chairs the Lewis Center for the Arts. The author of four books of poems, she received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. In October, Graywolf Press will publish Such Color: New and Selected Poems. She will deliver the keynote at the “Reflecting on the Past, Facing the Future” symposium on April 9, 2021.