washington, dc

31 october 2008


The 10 Race Koans as presented to Charles Johnson on the morning of July
               13, 2008

Shonda in England   
No Return
Thomas Jefferson said he saw you in Paris

About E. Ethelbert Miller



The 10 Race Koans as presented to Charles Johnson on the Morning of July 13, 2008.

Race Koan # 1

Why is the cotton white
and the hands black?

Race Koan # 2

How come our ears are always open
but we can’t hear the sound of freedom?

Race Koan # 3

What’s the difference between
the Colorline and the starting line?

Race Koan # 4

I have a dream
and you have a dream.
Do we share the same dream?

Race Koan # 5

Is sitting in the dark
the best way to celebrate

Race Koan # 6

A blind black man
boards a bus.
What do you notice first
his blindness or blackness?

Race Koan # 7

Do you ever wonder
what Stevie Wonder

Race Koan # 8

When DuBois called Garvey
“a Negro with a hat”
what was he wearing?

Race Koan # 9

When a black fist
causes a black eye
is this Black Power?

Race Koan # 10

Red, white, and blue.
Red, black and green.
What do colors mean?



Shonda in England

summer of 2008

No postcards or emails.
Is your name Phillis
Wheatley? Is England
somewhere beyond the next

Master took me to town
Where the big ships dock.
I stopped loading the wagon
and stared at water. The horizon
had a familiar glow. I touched
my skin and thought chains.

An elder saw me weeping
and said you would return
after the invention of the
airplane. Is this true Shonda?

Must I stand tomorrow
in the middle of the field
and open my arms? What
words will turn me into
a Flying African?

What poem will remember
me to your lips?



No Return

I am a poet of exile.
My home is desire.



Thomas Jefferson said he saw you in Paris

I’m sitting in plantation dusk
listening to Norah Jones
singing Turn Me On.

Is that your face next to the North Star?
I’ve lost the directions to your heart.
Call me on your cell tonight and whisper freedom.



is a literary activist. He is a board member of The Writer’s Center and editor of Poet Lore magazine. The author of several collections of poems, his last book How We Sleep On The Nights We Don’t Make Love (Curbstone Press, 2004) was an Independent Publisher Award Finalist. Miller received the 1995 O.B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize. He was awarded in 1996 an honorary doctorate of literature from Emory & Henry College. In 2003 his memoir Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), was selected by DC WE READ for its “one book, one city” program sponsored by the DC Public Libraries. In 2004 Miller was awarded a Fulbright to visit Israel. Poets & Writers presented him with the 2007 Barnes & Noble/ Writers for Writers Award. In 2009 Curbstone Press will publish On Saturdays I Santana With You. In 2009 Miller will also release The 5th Inning, a second memoir. Mr. Miller is often heard on National Public Radio (NPR).