Sudanese Children’s Bedtime Stories

Sadly, most people have not heard about this poet, Shannon Leigh. She was a local Austin teenager that had an incredible knack for poetry and it’s delivery. She passed away on June 30th. This poem has resonated in my head for a long time and I thought I would share it – I love the passion in which she recites her poem. This is a clip from the HBO series Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry.

We are Sudanese children’s bedtime stories.

Their mothers feed their daughters dreams instead of grain

one day, they say, we will rise on the horizon

green tanks and desert camouflaged soldiers

bearing peace, and guns

and flour.

It is a country of women and infants

waiting for their husbands and sons to set down the burden

of the cross and crescent

and come home.

Waiting for us to save them

they grow boy-soldiers like the crops they lack

boys who will learn to fight to save their faith

by martyring themselves to their oppressors

and cutting the breasts off enemy women

to starve their newborn sons.

Waiting for us to save them

they cultivate the soils of their daughter’s futures with hopes of American salvation

fueled by CNN headlines and photojournalist’s faces

they pray that their stories will become truth

rather than proof that their struggles remain nameless.

We came before

bearing the flag of our self-declared freedom we burst open the gates of Krakow ghettoes

and fleshed out the white limbs of concentration-camp survivors

we freed the Jews from genocide and tore pink triangles from the arms of those we would later make outcast again

and so we are Sudanese children’s bedtime stories

They do not understand that we only bomb when we are bombed back

and then fast, and thoroughly,

and sometimes at the wrong country we do not support genocide

but if brown-skinned people are killing

brown-skinned people

we will not put our children on the line

America is the only thing worth dying for

we are not coming

and there will be no fairy-tale ending.

They tell their daughters we are coming

as their bellies swell

as if they have fed them the moon

and they dream, sometimes, of leaving their children behind

they could flee faster, and surely they would be forgiven

from the safety of the stars

but instead they wait

for a rescue that is not coming

for a hope that is too silent, too foreign,

and too black

to ever be answered.


“Sudanese Children” is excerpted from Obatala by Shannon Leigh. Copyright © 2007 by Shannon Leigh.

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  1. […] other day and I really enjoyed his reading and thought I would pass it on. This and several other Austin poets make me really want to go to some slams because there is some serious talent […]

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