A Distant Footstep on the Plain is a collection of poetry at its finest, its most ragged and painful, and its most hopeful. The primary focus is on things that personally affect Byrd: racism, classism, poverty, and relationships with women. Byrd doesn’t hold back at all whether she’s writing about the experience of racism (“so I rose and each blow / was aimed to cripple / but I rose / against this violence” – p. 20) or her feelings for women, her feelings on class issues or anything else. Her pain and her hope is real and unashamed in each line, and they’re two sides of the same coin rather than some poems being about despair, and some about hope. In all of Byrd’s pieces in A Distant Footstep on the Plain are raw feeling with the type of elegance you find expressed in everyday life. The contrast between poems like “Sci Fi” and “Trust” is strong but still carries an undeniable similarity. These are poems written from the heart of a black woman who makes it very clear women are who she wants to sleep with (“yes sugar, I wanted to fuck you / and didn’t give a damn about Beethoven or your mind” – Sci Fi, p. 31). It’s a very specific experience and I have to admit that as a white woman I’m sure I didn’t catch all of the references. Within that experience though are things that affect us all, such as the bitterness a person can feel in a relationship when they’re feeling neglected (Telephone Call).
All in all, this brief collection of Byrd’s poetry is raw and painful but a really good read that I would encourage anyone and everyone to go through at least once. It gave me a lot to think about, put things in perspective of intersectionality. It’s important, I think, for everyone to read the works of queer women of colour and really think about them and what they mean to the writers, to us, and to everyone as a whole. I won’t lie and say this was an easy read; beyond its being painful and drawing me out of my comfort zone, the text itself was sometimes difficult to get through. There are a lot of metaphors I still don’t quite understand, but even if it’s dense reading material I did enjoy it enough that I’m sure I’ll be going back and revisiting this collection, hopefully picking up something new every time I read it.
[Editor’s note: This chapbook is available for free in ebook format!]