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2003-04-27

Nina Simone (b. Eunice Waymon)
2.21.33 Tryon, North Carolina / D. 4.21.03 Carry-le-Rouet, France
Mood Indigo

Nigger nine times in one conversational burst
I counted last week
sitting next to a young black guy on the Q train.

Nina Simone
left the country in 1973, living in Liberia and Barbados before settling in France. In a 1998 interview, she said she had left the United States because of a racial situation she called “worse than ever.”

I said
nigger out loud for the first time maybe two years ago
it slipped out
like my brain pan was Pandora’s box and my precious gray matter
not at all not at all.
Nigger
wingéd like discord; like discord spread.
Three, four months later my tongue found another one loitering under my palate.

When “ghetto”
as if it were Sweet ‘n’ Low
fails to satisfy.

How many girlfriends used to say, as if only to bug me,
“Not a criticism, just an observation”?
At least one
maybe two. Years ago.
Nigger
like I’m knowledgeable and it’s a distinction I’m making:
them not the well-behaved
them not you
or yes you (loutish, NBA-branded)
not me, the one with the mouth like a razor.

When France isn’t far enough.

Quotation from The New York Times Obituary (4.22.03)

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