cover image We Inherit What the Fires Left

We Inherit What the Fires Left

William Evans. Simon & Schuster, $16 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-982127-39-8

Evans (Still Can’t Do My Daughter’s Hair) poignantly addresses in this vulnerable collection his experience raising his daughter in the suburbs while reckoning with the memory of his own father and childhood. In three titled sections—“Grass Growing Wild Beneath Us,” “Trespass,” and “Aging Out of Someone Else’s Dream”—Evans recounts the mundane moments of pride and learning that come with fatherhood, as well as the larger systemic threats and legacies of violence that underlie his experience as a black American. In “Waves,” his daughter asks a question about the ocean, which brings to mind the slaves forced to cross the Atlantic. The poem closes with acknowledging another threat: “On the ride home, after I have/ quieted the bark, an officer/ pulls us to the side of the road/ and asks me whose car I am driving/ my family home in.” In “Pledge to Raising a Black Girl,” he asks, “How do you know what you have a taste for// if you’ve been told never to show your teeth?... The elders want us to raise// girls with a song in their heart, but we only respect/ the classics if they respected us, which is why// if you ask me how I’m doing, I say still breathing.” These poems offer sensitive portraits of race and fatherhood and richly explore the past while providing hope for the future. (Mar.)