It is often said that great art is created during troubled times, so it should come as no surprise that Barnard — well-known for its alumnae writers — has seen this trend continue as the “twin pandemics” of COVID-19 and a renewed focus on racial injustice and violence sweep the world. In this new limited series, Barnard community members share poems and songs that speak to this unique moment in time. (If you would like to contribute, please email

Today, Lecturer of First-Year Writing Alexandra Watson reads her poem "sugar daddies."



sugar daddies

in Barbados where my love is from
they traded in cane for the coasts
boasting coral-filtered
open-air and heirloom strain
wash populated with yeast
converting sugar to this leggy caramel
over twinkling slivers of ice

sometimes i forget: cane has the sugar
of any other fruit, just more
so only cane’s pulpy bamboo bark
do we bite the stalk and suck
only cane sweetens empires
balances the Queen’s bitter tea
and split open hands by the millions
in Hispaniola, Jamaica, Guyana, Guadeloupe
a stinking sickening sludge sticking
and dripping from the triangle in my mind
in Louisiana, too, where they sent our kin
they couldn’t break in Carolinas

sometimes i forget: plants have DNA too
which means some living stalk’s great
great great great great great great great great
grand-stalk was hand planted and later
approached by machete and perhaps
in a last gesture of resistance
flared its sharp skin, cut back
at a woman who had declared that day her enemy
that stalk that made her stomach sick
and ruined her girl’s beautiful hands
asking how much more misery
could bend a fibrous body’s capacity
and going on chopping
the sun converting sugar to sweat
sweeter than all the other fruit