Shamar Hill
The Walls Became the World All Around

18,000 years ago

my ancestors burned

bones and hematite

in the Lascaux caves.

Equines and stags mid gallop

on walls of calcite.


I imagine them gathering

in their own blackness.

As a boy I thought

brown and black

were stalked by death.


I try to imagine

the 17,000 years

Lascaux were left

alone in darkness.

If you read about the caves,

historians will say

they were discovered in 1940.


55 years later on my first

day of kindergarten,

a girl said hi to me

and I hid behind Mama.

She’s black and fat I said.


When I look up

the definition for black,

I find fifteen entries

with negative associations.


Black holes burn

at billionths of a Kelvin;

astronomers say that makes

them ideal black bodies

since they are impossible to observe.

Unfinished steel is said to be black.


When I look in the mirror

I feel shame for my six year old self,

much of me is unfinished.



Soil that flooded the Nile

was said to be black,

which meant glorious and fertile.


I know the awe of blackness.

The night sky marveling

in hope of the infinite.

Galaxies drift

in a blackness greater

than our understanding.


I think of Mama pouring

molasses by the spoonful

in her ginger snap cookies.

She’d let me have a spoon

after she was done with the batter.

The mineral taste almost iron.

Found In Volume 50, No. 03
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Shamar Hill
About the Author

Shamar Hill is Black, Cherokee, and Jewish. He is the recipient of numerous awards including fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Cave Canem, and Fine Arts Work Center. He has been published in: Poetry Northwest, The Missouri Review, and Washington Square Review, among others. He is working on a poetry collection, Photographs of an Imagined Childhood, and a memoir, In Defiance of All True Things. He is the Director of Institutional Giving & Stewardship at the Academy of American Poets.