Hakim Bellamy, Albuquerque’s first poet laureate, writes a series of questions about reactions to the tennis star Serena Williams that will echo in your mind for days on end. Listen to the poet read “Asterisk: A Glyph” and read along below.

Hakim Bellamy reads “Asterisk: A Glyph.”

Asterisk: A Glyph

By Hakim Bellamy

in the post-Serena Slam era

When you say her name what do you mean?

Do you mean “us?â€

Do you mean Latin, or do you mean Chamoru* for sunlight, sunshine?

Or do you mean daughter? Do you mean dark?

When you do not say her name what do you mean?

When you say calm do you mean invisible or ladylike?

When you say peaceful, do you mean conquered?

When you say serene do you mean “sista†or slave name? What exactly do you mean?

When you say tennis do you mean love or combat?

When you say respect, do you mean you first?

Do you mean all white when you say club?

Do mean color, or do you mean code?

Do you mean Druid Hill, or do you mean Indian Wells?

When you say racquet, do you mean rigged?

When you say endorsements, do you mean permission?

When you say masculine, do you mean anger?

When you say loud, do mean record-breaking?

When you say manly, do you mean win?

When you say unpretty, do you mean powerful?

When you say her name, does it make you feel small?

When she says fuck, does it make you go numb?

When you say boo, do you mean little girl?

Does it scare you that she is no one’s prize?

When you say slam, does it hurt?

When you say serve, do you mean help?

Who do you mean when you say hero?

When you say asterisk, do you mean champion, but …

When you say history do you mean yours?

When you say game do you mean everything or do you mean sport?

When you say match, do mean none?

Do you know what “it†means? Do you know what she means?

Do you know what she means to Compton?

When you say she’s no angel, Do you mean blasphemous

Do you know why forsaken people sometimes turn athletes into gods?

Gods that look like them?

*The Chamorro people, are the indigenous peoples of the Mariana Islands. Chamoru society was based on what sociologist Dr. Lawrence J. Cunningham termed the “matrilineal avuncuclan”, one characteristic of which is that the brother(s) of the female parent plays more of a “father” role than the actual biological male parent.

**In colloquial usage, an asterisk is used to indicate that a record is somehow tainted by circumstances, which are putatively explained in a footnote referenced by the asterisk.

Hakim Bellamy became the inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque in 2012, at age 33. His work has been published in numerous anthologies, as well as AlterNet, Truthout and Counterpunch. His first collection of poetry, SWEAR, won the Tillie Olson Creative Writing Award from the Working Class Studies Association. Bellamy is the founder and president of Beyond Poetry LLC. In 2013, he became a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network Fellow. For more information on the author, please visit www.hakimbe.com.

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