Le's latest collection explores America's multiple relationships with cotton.

Sing Silence

Interview with Cotton (Part 1/Dreams)

     As early as 503 B.C., the Chinese knew of cotton. However,

     they used silk and were not interested in cotton as cloth

     until much later. At first, they grew it as a decorative garden flower.

                                                                 The First Book of Cotton

You asked about the early days, the disappointments
and desires. Sometimes I’d dream of being a beautiful
bouquet delivered into the arms of a young wife. Or I’d

imagine having my petals scattered across silk sheets,  
waiting for a true love to come home.
A surprise.
An anniversary. A prelude to romance.

I never wanted to be picked for profit,
damned like tobacco. I never wanted my white bolls
to be turned into green money, to be the reason
for blood in the fields. The men whipped

for being slow. The women beaten for crying out.
Brown bodies without their own names.

Black children who just wanted to play.


I didn’t ask for any of it. I should have been the flower

in Lady Day’s hair. The blanket on Martin’s casket.

The floral array at Beyonce’s wedding.

No one gave me that chance. I wanted to be like Rose.

But they ignored my bloom and waited for the fluff,

the cash crop, the motive for someone’s greed.

Maybe I should apologize, but this legacy isn’t my choice.


When the sun goes down, I still dream of bouquets.

In my dreams, I am beautiful.

In my dreams, I am still innocent.

Published in the Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Summer 2016