Traces – Poetry by Shonda Buchanan


for my NC Sampson County Manuels


Since 1830, every year on the Census

my third great grandfather disappeared in his


 First Indian, then Mulatto in 1840,

 in 1850, he was eventually white.


What were we?


My fourth great grandfather

 could have left an easier trail to follow.

          One of cornbread, drum songs, splintered

wagon wheels.

 Anything to locate their breath on the ravaged


The scent of pokeweed

 unpicked cotton

         something to wet my finger and test the wind

of a three hundred and forty-four years’


all the way back to North Carolina and


A porous golden map of some kind:

deer bone, a horse shoe

that told us how to interpret the dreams we

woman had

dreams that scared the shit out of us

when dead people came to call, when the

crystal future

unfolded like a horror movie in our dreary



We knew them, the ghosts folding air-dried


clipping wooden pins off a clothing line

walking away with a full basket of my


wet, white bones

into mist, into shadows.


We will never find him.


Shonda Buchanan – Who’s Afraid of Black Indians? –

More about the author: Poet, memoirist, and fiction writer Shonda Buchanan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Hampton University teaching creative writing, composition, essay writing, editing, and research. Author of Who’s Afraid of Black Indians?, which was nominated for the Literary of Virginia Literary Contest and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards, and editor of Voices from Leimert Park, Shonda is an award-winning poet whose expertise includes Narrative Nonfiction, Contemporary American, African American, American Indian and Women’s Literature, and Comparative Literature, as well as canonical texts. She freelanced for the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle, and Indian Country Today. She commentated for Marketplace Radio, and was featured on National Public Radio’s Tell Me More. A culture and literary arts ambassador, her presentations, workshops and lectures demonstrate her passion for exploring gender, ethnicity, family, heritage, landscape, environment and ancestry. For more information, visit:, or Poets & Writers.