Essays, Essays Archive
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Boy | Anita Zachary | Raising Mothers

Don’t put your hands in your pockets.
Don’t wear your hoodie.

Don’t pull your pants down.
Don’t pull your underwear up.

Don’t swagger. Don’t skip. Don’t sway.
Don’t lean.  Don’t leer. Baby don’t run.

Don’t look down or up or sideways.
Don’t make a fist. Don’t fold your arms.

Don’t say no, don’t say yes. Don’t say anything dumb.
Don’t shrug, don’t question. Don’t say something smart.


Stay out of that store; stay out of that block,
that mall, that street, that corner. Stay out of this neighborhood.

Stay out of the hallway, the stairwell, the yard, the gym, the park, the woods.
Stay off the balcony, the boardwalk, the beach. Stay off the lawn.

Don’t talk back. Don’t be defiant. Don’t get mad, don’t laugh, don’t cry.
Don’t act like you don’t know what’s going on. Don’t act like you know everything.

Don’t smirk, don’t smile, don’t grin, don’t get angry, don’t get frustrated.
Don’t relax, don’t wait, don’t hurry, don’t slow down, don’t speed up.

Don’t wear red, don’t wear blue, don’t wear any tattoos.
Don’t wear a bandanna, a durag, a t shirt, a pair of jeans,

Don’t stand by her, by him by them, by us, by that alley,
by that building, by that school, by my yard,

Don’t play your music loud; don’t play music loud in the car.
Don’t wear a cap. Don’t put a comb in your hair, don’t whistle,

Don’t hum. Don’t snap your fingers. Don’t chew gum. Don’t
sit on the stoop. Don’t sit on the porch, on the floor, on the curb. Don’t

clap your hands, don’t sing, don’t dance, don’t rap, don’t ska, don’t
fidget, don’t flail.

Don’t reach. Don’t reach for the glove box,
the back seat, the floorboard, the console, the gearshift. You might have a gun.

Don’t act like you’re afraid. Don’t act like
you’re gangsta. Don’t act proud. Don’t be a chump.

Don’t be a hero, don’t stick up
for yourself. Don’t get pushed around.

Whatever, baby.

Don’t run.

Anita Zachary writes poetry and prose and considers her work mostly hybrid. She is a recent graduate of San Diego State University’s highly regarded MFA  program, with a specialty in fiction. She has translated  poetry for the online version of Poetry International. She is a mother of four.

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Filed under: Essays, Essays Archive


Sherisa de Groot (she/her) is a writer, community builder, and founder of Raising Mothers, literary membership community Literary Liberation, and pens A Home Within Myself. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including Kindred by Parents, Refinery 29, Mutha Magazine, and Oldster Magazine and she was a contributor to the book ‘100 Diverse Voices on Parenthood’ by A Kid’s Company About. With a focus on intersectionality and social justice, de Groot’s writing explores the nuances of motherhood and the experiences of BIPOC mothers and marginalized genders. Through her work, she aims to amplify the voices of those who have been historically silenced and create a more equitable world for all. Raising Mothers was the 2021 Romper People’s Choice Iris Award Winner. Originally from Brooklyn New York, she is a first-generation American turned immigrant living in Amsterdam, NL with her husband, two children, and cat.

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