She calls it,
An image held
As lip-gloss service
On a nation’s reputation
As one that melds
A metal more
Than when slavery
To a fiction
That is tired—
Since first inception
As if enlightened,
Instead of frightened.
And we know that fear
Is as antithetical
As the longitude
Of India, land of spice
Is to New England,
Land of Christ-pushing
In dealings with the
Making it strenuous
To detect the respect implied
By the title of the feast
Given by the beasts who hide
The pilgrims’ pride, aka genocide
In plain sight, well-lit
With pan-generational gaslights
Giving thanks for all the blessings bestowed
Which is a load.
No grace was shed on thee.
When those who bled were free already,
Until the day when white-makes-right
Stormed the shores,
Shouting to the neighbors about discovery.
We won’t begin our recovery until
The bitter pill is swallowed
That our hallowed halls are hollowed
And the varnished thick veneer is tarnished
Every time we listen to tradition
Instead of honest admission
That the making of our living
Was consumptuous taking
A sneeze is inherently comical; Nature’s practical joke.
I, like my Grandfather before me always sneeze in threes.
Loud, full-bodied things. Sometimes my feet leave the ground.
Once, while in service to a beloved nun, I sneezed only twice, held up my index finger and said Let’s see if I’ve got anything for the Holy Spirit! Her laugh fills my memories still.
A dear atheist friend would have nothing to do With superstition or tradition only for tradition sake. I’d issue the bless you response following the call of her sneeze— A historic prayer for skipped heartbeats and the near-death sneeze experience— She would not abide with a customary thank you, and met such nonsense with silence. We renegotiated a more fitting ceremony. She sneezes. I reply, don’t die. Everyone has a happy time of it.
And so it is said that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Some trees are fickle, no good in a pot, or on the back of a truck ready for transplant. Why on earth anyone would think that liberty might be factory farmable
rather than a breeze-borne seed in search of a receptive patch to grow in or die in,
is beyond reason of art or horticulture.
Put up a wall and watch a seedpod show you exactly how small your plan, and your dragging feet and coal-raking cruelty did nothing but till the soil bare and open
With the sanguine stain of ripe fruit on fingertips, as if painted: Still Life of Black Man/Black Woman With Bullet Holes The berry seed lands in your open dirt.
A citizen is the heartwood of patriotism. Not the warriors. Nor the foreman.
Black and brown citizens been refreshing the tree for some time now.
The tree still has a thirst.
*Author’s note: I recognize the hollowness of Thomas Jefferson’s words as a slave owners carrying on about liberty. I hope that applying those words in service to addressing systemic racism and oppression adds credence to the words, not the speaker.
** Author’s other note: Because of the times that we live in, it seems necessary to say that I do not advocate for or condone violence. I believe in nonviolence. This is a work of poetry and the intent is poetic. The call for blood is a call for the tyrants and oppressors of our times to be held accountable to those whom harm has come through them. It must also be said, that history makes a case that those who are refused justice will eventually demand it with ever increasing force until they have it. The earlier justice is paid, the lighter the accrued interest.
***It is the taste of one which demands the taste of the other. Feed your trees with things less bitter.
There’s a complementary truth laden in every question.
An oyster remains closed
until the knife
brandished with patience
exploits the weak point
and traces the zipper
revealing the flesh
and ocean brine.