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“I carry him around/like an egg in a spoon,/and I remember a porcelain fawn…./It’s not so simple to give a child birth;/you also have to give it death,” writes Cleveland-born University of Connecticut professor and two-time National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson in “Mama’s Promise.” In “Minor Miracle,” a trucker screams the N-word to a couple cycling through a Midwestern town on a spring day. The pair pedals on, is followed, and is finally confronted by the driver “shoving his hands into his pockets/and pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot,/’I just want to say I’m sorry.’” With notes of subtlety, surprise, and rhythmic tension, Nelson’s poetry sings as it celebrates the African-American experience. She reads at 8 p.m. at American University’s Bentley Lounge in Gray Hall, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. (202) 885-2990. (Nefretiti Makenta)