The Rumpus Inaugural Poems: Rajiv Mohabir


Each day from January 7 through January 20, Rumpus Original Poems will feature work in response to the coming presidential inauguration. Today’s poem is from Rajiv Mohabir.





Orange clouds warn: worry
will break down the door.

What happens below their cover
reflects against their bellies.

Another night I tithe
coins like hope for my
lady of sorrow. I phone

my mother so someone will hear
her prayers in Florida.

She left London after
the National Front chased her

like a fox, immigrant and brown-
skinned. Today hounds
release hell along the roads,

those hiding in the underbrush
scatter. White boys beat

a Saudi student to death
in Menomonie. Klansmen
with hats like teeth march

the streets in North Carolina—
____Ma are you there? Call me back
____let me know you are still alive. 

On the walls of my high school
some white hands scrawl
“better start picking yall slave numbers KKK
____Ma, this is only miles from you.

In Oviedo, twenty miles
from Sanford Christians claim
this an exception.

Even Honolulu a student scribbles
“black lives have never mattered.”

I look around and think that two
out of every three white Christians

want me dead. We all know
exactly how this happened.
____Yes, Ma, I’m okay.

Yet, in the north a buffalo stamps
the head of a snake, three black women
start and continue a movement,

and I have been smashing
all of the walls I can see until,
finally, my own walls collapse

and a hibiscus trumpets its pollen,
a bee holds its seed and carries
grains into the next bloom,

a movement cradles a community
after a white man opens fire in a church.
____Ma, they died mid-prayer.

A wildfire rages from a spark
of flowers, to glow daffodil,
rose, hibiscus, lehua,

Ma, I was wrong.
Against the clouds what first
I thought doom will mean

our petals will not be plucked,
how with America’s hate
our resistance grows, how

under cement, roots break
hate’s fake stones,
despite so much weight.

– Rajiv Mohabir


Rajiv Mohabir is the author of The Cowherd’s Son (Winner of the Kundiman Prize 2015, Tupelo Press 2017) and The Taxidermist’s Cut (Winner of the Intro to Poetry Prize 2014, Four Way Books 2016). To read more of his work visit

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →