For James Waters McLemore, The First

Delaney McLemore


I know
when I tell the world
what I’ve named my daughter,
there will be a ruckus,
but fuck us, right?
Those who chose to change a word’s
history, to reclaim it, to make
into a battle cry.

James! I will scream
when you have turned a corner
out of sight in the grocery;
not when I am gone in flashback
or nightmare.

James! I will cheer
as you toddle awkwardly
from your father’s two hands to my own;
not when asked “Who was the first?
Who was the worst?”

James? I will ask
when I am old and cannot see
that it is you that has entered my room in the night;
not him.
I am safe from him.

James is
my brother’s middle name
and that of my first rapist.

Waters is
another brother’s middle
and that which drowned me,
bathtubs teardrops oceans.

McLemore because
you are my own precious blood spilt
and spit together with your father’s mouth
but my tongue.

I take your name
like I’m America
and he’s the world

or like I’m him.
And he’s no longer
(No New Stanza)



Provenence: Submission.


Delaney McLemore is a student at West Virginia Wesleyan College’s low-residency MFA program. Her work can be found in Entropy,, Et Cetera Literary Magazine and others. She lives in New York.



Featured Image: “Lewis Hine: Girl spinner, 11 years old, Rhodes Manufacturing Co., Lincolnton, North Carolina, 1908” via trialsanderrors is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1 Comment
  • R.Gene Turchin
    December 1, 2017 at 5:17 am

    Well written, wry and emotional.

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