Seeds take root-- leaves begin to sprout and flatten eagerly in the sun, taking in the warmth of its story
Leaves rest in perfect silence
A miniscule bud peeks through the wisdom of the leaves, and with slow, patient, seductive time, opens thirsting petals
The sun strikes on knowledge innate
Greenery rises and falls, sprouts and withers, swayed by the creeping seasons, by what the sun allows
Rain drenches petals but nourishes roots
Betrothed to the cycle, the garden joins itself with what has been, what is and what will be, refuses the stink-rot of stagnancy
The sun, She seeks change, too
The poet is of the Earth and Sky, interwoven, formed within the space that lies between the line; employed to enchant, enlighten, entomb
The poet: rooted vessel for perspective
Bronze skin catches dying light. Her muscles flex, heaving at the end of the chase. Another hanging narrowly avoided. Her breath slows, though she is anxious still. She waits for the woods to darken --she moves best in the moonlight-- and to her left, she catches a glimpse of a familiar bush. She smirks, pinches a berry from the bush, and crushes it in her teeth. A curious winds sifts through the trees and the light shifting in between the foliage starts to bounce from the leaves, echoing opalescence through the heaviness of night. The seer embraces disorientation and allows herself to fall into the fragrance of jasmine and pine. The moon focuses its glow upon her sun-beaten brow, and she directs her gaze toward the milky stars.
From the stars, I rise
stumbling through the sunlight
Borne from Diyu's haze
winking at simplicities
Consequence, she waits
Roots seek quiet earth,
sacred bonds of creation
Like the bud, I bloom
As dust seeks trinkets
I convene with time's good grace--
The pale horse beckons
I sift through the ash
dancing into stretched shadows
With the stars, I meld
To The Sky We Look, To The Earth We Succumb
the glimmer of ignorance
a dance with clear,
but careless steps
nurtured disappointment is
sewn to elusive nature,
balanced webs spinning
fables within the strangest
Hard earned lessons found
sinking as the world
demands too much
Even through the bliss
of honeysuckle lips and
jasmine nights, delicate
curvature pulled taut
by the absence of time,
there lives a yearning
for completion, to be fastened
to the wholeness of strength
and its complexities
and though the open petals
glisten sweetly in
the softlight of the moon,
though the grip is firm, desperate,
it knows where peace will lie--
the fates do as they please
Bound to the spinning of the
wheel, daggers nick limbs,
expose bone, and forces the angel
to fall, weeping, mourning,
as grace dissolves into the sea
The North Star mocks with the way
she defies the moon and darts
hopelessly from the sun
But time, slipping through
crooked, calloused fingers
its granules catching beneath
splitting, deficient nails, cares little
for the trivialities of
honeysuckle dreams and the way
hopeful hands tremble
within the clock face
Nature, the ageless coquette
ferocious in her passion
opens herself, promising peace
within the warmth
of her earthen bed
Rest, she whispers,
Time won't find us here.
"You want to look at this? Get him something?" My mother gestured toward a catalog lying open on the table.
I thought about the box in the back of her closet. A decade's worth of gifts waiting to be wrapped.
For the first and last time, I told her no.
In hindsight, Mrs. Martin’s expression was a warning.
Stone-faced, she stepped solemnly toward her computer desk, clicked her speakers on, and pressed a button on her laptop. She told us that we could leave the room if we wanted. No repercussions. The room of barely-teens sat still in plastic seats. White light splashed across our faces. A husky voice began to pour from cheap desktop speakers. She pressed another button. One word scrolled across the screen.
The beginning of the PowerPoint was simple. Information most Americans are almost innately aware of. Slavery happened, and that was bad. The colored folks were free, but Jim Crow stepped in and tightened the restraints. Martin Luther King came along and sorted all that nonsense out. Now diversity is the norm and everyone is equal-- isn’t that great, kids? Now here’s a Xeroxed copy of the lyrics to Kumbaya.
Mrs. Martin’s presentation was less optimistic.
The slides--bold black letters against a stark white background-- began to show images. Crude sketches. Detailed artistic renderings. Black and white photos. An endless stream of crooked necks and heavy bodies hanging from ancient and unwilling trees. Billie’s vibrato narrated our slide show, slowly spinning horror stories that trailed through the years. Our barely pubescent faces were fixed to the projector screen, forced to acknowledge the lengthy history laid before us.
Strange fruit, indeed.
The last slide was in color. The man depicted was wearing what appeared to be a denim jacket and a pair of modern looking sneakers. This confused me. These accounts were truly horrible, I thought, but were from the far gone past. A description popped up on the screen. His name was Michael Donald. The picture was taken in 1981. A mob of angry racists went out looking for retribution. They crossed paths with Michael. He was 19.
Billie’s voice faded out.
Mrs. Martin shut off the projector and turned on the lights. Twenty-four eighth graders sat in silence. I don’t remember what happened during the rest of the class period. The next day, we returned to the state-approved lesson plan. Pull out your South Carolina History books. Turn to page 83, Chapter 6: The Civil Rights Movement.
Business as usual.
Mrs. Martin never spoke of the subject again. I don’t remember her getting any backlash for it. She was never pulled from the classroom, and her daughter, who was in the class with me, wasn’t removed either. Surprising, considering she probably showed the PowerPoint to every class she had that day. I often wonder if any of the other students told their parents what happened.
I never mentioned it to mine.
Mrs. Martin, a white woman, was brazen in her approach. I don't know that I will ever fully understand her motivations. My guess, based on what I remember of her, is that it was frustration at a watered-down retelling of history to a demographic that may not fully understand its implications.
History books love to talk about Dr. King. Most sugar-coat the part where he gets shot in the head.
I was born to a white mother and a black father, but was raised by my mother and her family. Her parents preached kindness and acceptance, and any misgivings with my father were never tied to the color of his skin. I knew my skin was a different color than theirs, but to me, it was no more than a difference in hair or eye color. School taught me about slavery, about civil rights, and about black history month. I knew racism existed, but it was an abstract concept-- a thing of the distant past that society collectively agreed to move on from decades before. The PowerPoint popped that bubble.
Ignorance is blissful, but defenseless. Discomfort is betrothed to truth.
I don't look for racism everywhere. I don't think that it's everywhere. There are kind people, and there are horrible people. There are honest mistakes, though malicious intent is alive and well. This is something I've come to reckon with as I move through history with a convoluted identity.
I am breathing in dualities, a sovereign child to the blended world.
I go back and forth in regards to how appropriate Mrs. Martin's decision was. We were children, most of us no older than thirteen, and this woman, based on her own beliefs, decided to show us a highly graphic and potentially (most likely) traumatic slideshow. I write this fifteen years later with the image of Michael Donald's sneakers burned into my memory.
I was just a kid. He was too.
Even now, I remember the chill that crept up the back of my neck as I heard a raspy, haunting voice moaning of bulging eyes and blood-soaked leaves. How it wailed of the crows coming to feed upon the strange and bitter crop hanging from the poplar trees. I was sickened but couldn't force myself away from her mournful poetry. Billie became one of my idols. Fifty years after her death, she still had a story to tell.
I couldn’t help but listen.
"Jesus, man. I told you not to call me that."
"Hey. Don't use my name in vain. Got a new batch for ya. Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, Ramirez aaaaand some guy named Shipman. "
"New? They've been dead a while. Figured they ended up in Purg somehow."
"Sentencing took longer than expected. Got set back by some political conflicts and a few unrelated massacres. Finally sorted through the war lords so the Big Guy had this lot expedited. Here's a list of their sins."
"Oh. Wow. Yeah, okay. Send them to Holmes. Crazy bastard's gonna have a field day."
Small hands grasp at fraying rope. Tiny cries tumble through frigid air. I reach out for the child dropping down the cliffside. She screams. I watch. She crashes. I sob. I think to run. She is gone, and the thought of her crumpled body is too much to bear. The cold wind whispers to me and robs me of doubt. Go, it insists. Fate follows down the mountain trail.
The moon, ambivalent. Mockery and encouragement are for me alone to find. I take my descent through darkened trees, whiplashed by foliage. I know what I've seen. What I believe to be true. The wind cares little for my inconsistency.
My splitting shoes skid on the rock face as it bleeds into browning grass. A contorted figure shudders amidst the wilting wildflowers. The breeze moves softly, arrogant in its perceptiveness, and pushes me toward the jutting angles.
Bloodshot eyes flash open at my arrival. The little girl gasps with stolen life, and tugs at my dress with a stained yet unbroken hand. I lean down, and as our cheekbones graze together in the moonlight, she whispers into my frozen ear. Silently, I think her to be a fool. Breathlessly, she implies that I am one.
I lift her body into my arms and imagine myself a mother carrying her young to bed. Icy earth crunches beneath my weighted feet. The moon shrinks behind a slender, viscous cloud, reluctant in its illumination. Mountains guard us on each side, urging me to walk with purpose. The child rests her head upon my shaking breast and watches me closely, blind faith behind her drooping eyelids.
The wind ceases, and spares us a moment free from its knowing.
The thick ones were the worst
full of wax, they fought the comb
Tangled, jagged memories
pulled from a greasy brush
You were different then--
lazy days on the stairwell
floating through the breezeway
I collected fragments of our youth
and bound them to dense vines
hanging heavy from my skull
but the weight of you,
the weight of youth
sepia days filtered by rose
had to wither, seek refuge
in the box upon your mother’s mantle
That silent smile,
was that a final trace of you?
A trace of youth
Water rushes across my tender scalp
and I wonder if you
felt this same relief, this same release
My reflection stares back,
dark ringlets uneven and dry
from well-intentioned neglect
The reflection, she notices
my hair hasn’t been this short
since we were kids
I stepped off concrete
thinking the grass
would be softer
beneath my feet
but I found
the lush terrain
made it more
difficult to walk