The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: BLACK GENEALOGY by Kiki Petrosino

Old Master writes the names you seek in his ledgers,
or might do. It depends on what Old Master sees, what
subtleties he tracks, which gifts. Abby walked to Oatlands,
he writes in 1864, but you need to read, H walked. You
need her to come up from the quarter & step through the
narrow ring of Old Master’s attention, a light girl with
ears bored for rings. But H is prudent. She never wastes
her scant yard of brown tecklenburg or breaks her tools
in the field like the others. For a whole page, instead of
talking about H, Old Master counts his glass decanters
from France. He orders every hand to finish harvest
without saying whose hands. You search for H until the
yellow globes of Old Master’s script go dim, gummed like
the fallen chinaberry fruit about his house. Well, well. It’s
a good thing you’re a finch now. You were born to gorge.

This selection comes from the collection Black Genealogy, available from Brain Mill Press. Order your copy here. Our curator for December is Krista Cox.

Kiki Petrosino is the author of three collections with Sarabande Books: Fort Red Border (2009), Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013), andWitch Wife (forthcoming, Dec. 2017). Witch Wife has received positive advance industry press, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly and inclusion on The Millions’s list of must-read poetry for December. Petrosino holds degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her poems have appeared in the New York Times, Best American Poetry, Poetry magazine, and elsewhere.

Krista Cox is a paralegal and poet living in northern Indiana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, The Indianola Review, Whale Road Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among other places in print and online. She twice received the Lester M. Wolfson Student Award in Poetry, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. In her abundant spare time, Krista parents, paints, and plans community events as the Program Director of Lit Literary Collective. Learn more than you ever wanted to know about her at


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