But My Sister Said All Poets are Liars… (and other poems)

But My Sister Said All Poets Are Liars…

just because, 
when we took a walk one day,
me in a woolen sweater, her in a sleeveless cotton top,
someone threw a boulder out an open window
from a Highrise. My sister said 
it was a pebble,
but I saw it grow from pebble to rock,
a piece of black coal like the ones the Coal Man
would bring in his truck once a month
to feed our furnace just when we thought
we would freeze to death like orphans, 
our fingernails long as Cruella Deville’s,
but icicles like those hanging from eaves.
But wait! That rock grew from coal to stone,
and kept growing, like the big ones
in the Ocoee River, boulders you could use
to cross the river like I saw the Cherokees do, 
ghostlike echoes imprinted in air if I stared long enough…

My sister said “Stop! You were too young to remember
The Coal Man, and you were never cold, because I 
remember heat; and when did you stand on the edge of any river
and how do you know exactly what tribe crossed where?
How could you create a ghost story from a boulder, 
and a coal story from a pebble? 
How could you say our parents didn’t provide?

And then she walked away, so she didn’t see the boulder bury me,
Push me through concrete to molten lava until I was on the other side,
where I rested in the graveyard of once-upon-a-time imaginings, 
poetic images 
my sister said she couldn’t 
close her eyes to see.

I Was Raised to Be Invisible

              I was raised to hide
from the Boogeyman,
to not go with strange men
even if they were called “Uncle”;
to walk away from love after the first slap,
the first “Baby I didn’t mean it, but
it was your fault.”

              I was raised to be a good daughter,
to not take up too much air,
to do what I was told without talking back,
and so I sat in that barber’s chair for “a facial”, 
and I, hungry for perfection, let him
put his hands on my teenage face
covered with perceived imperfections
all distorted in the bathroom mirror.
But I didn’t want his hands to roam down
to my breasts, barely budding.

              But I was also raised with Black girl magic,
with the power to leave that chair,
to run from the boogeyman,
to be strong enough to tell,
to raise my voice,
to scream.


  • Cynthia Robinson Young is a native of Newark, New Jersey, but now lives and writes in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her work has appeared in journals and magazines including The Writer's Chronicle, Grist journal, The Amistad, Sixfold, The Ekphrastic Review, and Catalpa: a magazine of Southern Perspectives. For her chapbook, Migration (Finishing Line Press) she was named Finalist in the 2019 Georgia Author of the Year Award in her category.

  • Three images of Jupiter show the gas giant in three different types of light — infrared, visible, and ultraviolet. The image on the left was taken in infrared by the Near-InfraRed Imager (NIRI) instrument at Gemini North in Hawaiʻi, the northern member of the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NOIRLab (National Science Foundation). The center image was taken in visible light by the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope. The image on the right was taken in ultraviolet light by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. All of the observations were taken on 11 January 2017. Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/NASA/ESA, M.H. Wong and I. de Pater (UC Berkeley), et al.