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In her astounding third collection, Nikki Wallschlaeger turns to water—the natural element of grief—to trace history’s interconnected movements through family, memory, and day-to-day survival. <em> Waterbaby</em> is a book about Blackness, language, and motherhood in America; about the ancestral joys and sharp pains that travel together through the nervous system’s crowded riverways; about the holy sanctuary of the bathtub for a spirit that’s pushed beyond exhaustion. Waterbaby sings the blues in every key, as Wallschlaeger uses her vibrant lexicon and varied rhythms to condense and expand emotion, hurry and slow meaning, communicating the profound simultaneity of righteous dissatisfaction with an unjust world, and radical love for what’s possible.


Nikki Wallschlaeger. Waterbaby


Note to the Reader


Nobody Special

Middle Passage Messaging Service

All Kinds of Fires inside Our Heads

This Body Keeps the Keys

Dirt Floor

Valley of Things

Black Woman on a Plane, Twenty-First Century

Prayer Sonnet

Airport Security Playlist

Jamais Vu State of Mind

Women Are Doomed to Be the Angels of Love

It’s a Daisy

When the Devil Leads Us Home and Yells Surprise

100-Year Flood

Notes on the New Reconstruction

Way of the Road

Vertical View of a City

Blue Flame of July

Astral Traveling Got Me F*cked Up

Dead to the World Study #1

William Shakespeare

Robert Frost

William Carlos Williams

Dead to the World Study #2

A Dying Mule Kicks the Hardest

Why Do I Feel So Old When I Look So Young

American Children

Dead to the World Study #3

The Lunch Counter of Eternal Tears

Fantastic Voyage

Dead to the World Study #4

Lost in America

People Are Unbearably Docile

Crash Blue Sunday

I’d Come Back from the Grave to Celebrate the End of Capitalism

Butterfly on a Baby’s Head

Cows in the Morning

Lake Come and Gone

Lonely in a Fundamental Way

Further Notes on the New Reconstruction


Just Because We’re Scared Doesn’t Mean We’re Wrong


All Dogs Go to Heaven

Black Woman in a Bathtub, Twenty-First Century


Take a Seat



Ars Poetica on a Twenty-Dollar Bill

Mother of Thousands

About the Author

Books by Nikki Wallschlaeger


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Dead to the World Study #3

The Lunch Counter of Eternal Tears


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