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North Carolina African American Literature

N C L R ONLINE

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALYSSA COLEMAN, NCLR INTERN

Red Channel in the Rupture’s second section, “Aperture,” might mean the space that light passes through in a camera. It can also mean a vent, an opening, or an interstice of space. Through the aperture of memory, readers will encounter “Neighborhood Boys.” In this poem, Thomas recounts a memory of middle-school boys in the midst of a battle tossing pinecone grenades. The boys bargain with Thomas’s “five year old self,” who wants the marble the boys hold out as reward. The child follows the boys into the woods, the girl stepping out of the woods, the bird in her turning its ruddy shoulder toward the light, thankful she got to live, that while they tried to kill her, they could in the end let her live . . . and on this street where boys war with pinecones; somehow, I owe them my life.

The somehow snares attention: Disbelief? Anger and scorn? An unvoiced question? “Somehow, I owe them my life.” Thomas does not avoid danger in her poems, including the dangers that children face. In “Passing” she exposes a consequence of living with a biracial identity, where “Blackness rushed after me like / a heavy cloud.” In a childhood memory she recalls asking her father not to go to school, because she didn’t want the other students to see that her father was black: “Assassinations / begin at home.” Yet when her father shows up at school, love proves stronger than the social-shaming: He stood in the classroom doorway and said my name three times before I let myself see his brown face. I let blackness ripple and then I went to him, gunned through rows by spitting bees. Eyes in horror dashed me to rocks. But, I went to him.

LEFT AND ABOVE Amber Flora Thomas at her East Carolina University

book launch reading in Joyner Library, Greenville, NC, 17 Oct. 2018

Thomas does not avoid or soften the difficulty of a biracial identity. The child is not left uninjured: she is violently thrown against rocks. Nothing softened. A father’s love and presence do not make his child’s social relationships easier, and so the poem’s turning – “But, I went to him” – grows large and resonant. The child’s choice shows her courage and proves that she has the strength to accept her father’s difference as well as her own. As they read Red Channel in the Rupture, readers will reconsider their own natural spaces and the stories they find there. They will think of family relationships and the difficulties of identity. But most of all, they will enjoy looking through Thomas’s precisely chiseled language. Readers will feel at home and invited into this collection. n

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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