by Terrance Hayes
It feels sadder when a black person says Nigga
Because it sounds like Nigger. It feels sadder
When a brother or sister says Nigga because
It sounds like Nigger. I have never heard either
Word in the mouth of my mother or father.
Once I had a lover who said neither word
Out loud. I used neither word for years.
It feels sadder to hear a nigga say Nigga when
It sounds like Nigger. Nothing saddens me more
Than nigger, one whose master has no Lord.
No word leaves me more graced by shame.
You will always be my nigga, I say to the mirror
Because it is a dark water the temperature
Of a blade, the yellow flower stalking a dream.
Terrance Hayes is the author of Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award.
The New Word is a poetry submission column. Poems should be no more that 300 words, with a maximum grouping of three related poems. Before submitting, please make sure every word has been considered and the poem has been edited to the very syllable, to the rhythms of each sound and step.