© 2018 by Medicinal Poetry

 

Picture me dancing.

Along the wild edge, 

where land meets the sea.

Belly and thighs bare.

Salt in windswept hair,

sand under bare feet.

Pressing soft tracks

along the warm ocean.

When you think of me,

this strong black woman,

it would be easy 

to envision toil

my endless struggle, 

how hard I must work.

As black women have 

long been measured by 

what we can produce 

and by what against we fight.

Do not lend your voice to the chorus

that would clamor “rest is indulgence

and fun is only for the lazy, or the white.”

Disagree with the hordes 

saying, “we must work ourselves to exhaustion.”

Capitalism was built on our brown backs

Do not try to beat us with that whip, again.

Question that which would ask 

if I deserve 

such relaxation,

and why we believe 

we must earn feeling well.

I have spent too many years 

believing myself worthless 

in this dark skin,

too many hours never accomplishing enough.

My grandmothers did not sing me into being

to work myself to death

for them, or for you, 

and especially not for the system 

that tried to eat them.

No single nap could touch the tiredness settled into these bones.

Play must be my path, now.

Pleasure my guide.

And art my tool,

to chisel the new paradigm into being through our joy.

Strong is a word I, too, have earned,

and also brave.

but now,

but now

let it be brave, too,

to put down shovel

and pick up snorkel

or paintbrush, or pen.

To trade, for a moment,

a sword for a swimsuit.

When you think of me,

do not envision me working

though that will come in myriad essential ways;

Not struggling, please, never that again,

not distressedly shaking my fist at a concrete sky.

Picture my unbound thighs jiggling as I play in the foam,

my unfettered hair swept by the tradewinds,

my copper-brown skin shimmering as I twirl and bend

as I dance my gratitude for this body’s place

in the symphony of sun, sea, and sand.

The taste of salt, and freedom, 

and a soft smile on my lips

as I gaze into the beyond.

My grandmothers sang

in the Master’s tongue,

for their own were beaten into forgetting.

Songs of Kingdom come; songs of rhythm for picking,

songs to endure the soreness and shame

of being something less than human.

My grandfathers spent their days

bent over fields,

robbed of all decency and dignity

until rent flesh 

and inhuman cruelty

finally overtook their clinging

to the miserable shadow of a life.

Slavery was obvious then.

Some would say it has long since been transcended, 

like racism,

that we understand now that all humans are equal.

But some Orwellian axioms 

are taken as scripture by the profiteers

and those “more equal” make the rules.

There is no way that I should be able to buy a pair of jeans

or pound of corn 

for a handful of change.

My cells remember the agony of picking cotton,

my lungs the ache of its toxic fibers,

how it sticks to the hands, 

cutting them in a thousand tiny ways that never fully heal.

Today a 13 year-old girl 

is bent over a sewing machine in India

with that same cotton;

unable to leave,

praying for the better life she was promised.

A tired old man is bent over the dirt in Mexico,

picking fruit he will never eat,

for a restaurant he will never see,

in a country that would call him illegal.

All for the hope that his children will be free of the poverty

that seems as endless and vast as the mono-cropped fields before him.

A 6 year-old boy in the Ivory Coast is dragging 100 pound bags

and using a machete to open a pod he has to hold with his bare hand,

hoping he will work quickly enough to avoid another beating,

resenting the very thought of the chocolate he will never taste.

But heaven forbid Levi’s go up a few dollars,

or we pay the real cost of growing real food,

or we give up our fancy gadgets and fast lifestyles so that factory workers can keep their hands,

indigenous tribes can keep their lands, and children can keep their freedom.

When you have no real choice,

which lesser evil do you choose?

Slavery lives on.

Our most tenacious addiction,

inherited affliction,

made of mistaking power for value

and difference for distance.

How we convince ourselves

generation after generation

that we are powerless to change the system

that gives us just enough to keep us on our knees.

The Master that has no face, but many,

who whips us with the threat of poverty

and the illusion of hierarchy,

until there is no fight left,

and we pass a prison to our children

in this so-called land of the free.

Looking through the ages,

we see slavery is an inside job,

perpetrated on ourselves, on each other, on the Mother,

passing along our debts and our pain

until there is nothing left but miles of chains

and the broken world we have built on other people’s backs.

There is no living being more equal than any other.

These ideas are created in the monstrous minds of oppressors 

who are already, themselves, oppressed.

There is no true prosperity for one unless there is prosperity for all.

It is time for a new song.

To compost this strange fruit, this strange and bitter crop.

To educate, to inspire, to remember each other.

To lift one another, so we can all rise to the top.

The responsibility of the information age,

is that now is when we can make slavery stop.

Desert of our own making.

Deserted by our own forsaking

of our places within the sacred hoop,

of the dancing that gives the skies tear-filled hope

for the possibility of Earth’s creatures’ beauty.

Desolation as far as the I can see,

deposed from our yearning to be free

by the learning that we have no homes

for which to be brave.

Slaves to a system

built on the illusion that anything can be owned.

Land, soil, oil, minds, bodies, bodies, bodies

these bodies that know only breathing and being,

planting and tending,

loving and dying.

Ripped up from roots like so much tender sapling,

told to wander the dry places seeking shelter,

from the elements that are not intended to be so harsh.

Thirsty for a rightness we hardly remember.

Seeking a garden whispered to our hearts

through the long ages of forgetting,

of raping 

of traipsing over the sacred

and digging far too many unwishing wells.

We are spelled by the sins of our fathers,

with no comprehension of the legacy

that spurs us to strap our be-longings to our backs

and walk until these bodies give out.

In every direction seemingly endless brokenness,

unquenchable parchedness.

Even the wildflowers choke on the dust of our forgetting

of the interdependence of life:

that caring for ourselves includes caring for each other.

 

And so I pray for rain.

Long for the smell of it reaching this dust over my faith

in the innate goodness of humanity.

I dream of dancing in verdant food forests.

A whole species remembering what it means to receive ripe fruit from trees

who are grateful that we wait beneath them with open palms.

Eating the corn cooked by happy people,

who never have to question where we will sleep that night.

 

I pray for rain,

as fields lie cracked and fallow,

as we no longer know who to follow,

as generation after generation loose our homes,

as we face the worst droughts in the history of our society.

 

I pray for rain,

to wash our hearts clean,

to wash clean the eyes of those who see only distortions of green,

to revive fecundity in these bodies, these lands,

to resurrect the garden of eden.

 

These tears, these tears, these tears

bring water to the desert,

But quickly it fades. 

I cannot wail enough to make up for what has been lost, is being lost.

So I pray for rain,

that our children may know what it means to dance in joy again.

Hold me,

but not too tightly.

Protect me,

but let me be free.

Provide for me,

but remember I could do it myself.

Make my fantasies real,

but honor the frailty of my humanity

Be a man

Be a man

Be a man.

Or rather,

be the idea I hold of what a man should be.

Rising awareness of the reality

 of centuries of subjugation of the feminine

does not permit projecting everything onto the masculine.

 

This longing is not for you to satisfy.

This emptiness is not for you to fill.

This pain is not for you to fix.

This place in my heart where love dwells

holds a bench whereupon you may rest,

a nest to shelter us both,

and inspire our awakening communion.

But I cannot expect you to enter it

nor be annoyed at the garb you choose to wear in my temple,

or that you have scars and needs of your own.

 

This is the age of remembering.

First we remember ourselves.

We remember women, we remember the great fertile She.

Then we remember we can only get there 

if we go as "we."

Discovering personal and relational wholeness 

that leads at last to free.

Desire and wounds have blinded us 

to the ways we perpetuate slavery

on the very ones we hope will love us.

"You should man up!"

Perhaps instead it's time for manning down

unwinding,

softening the grip,

releasing the wounding and the will.

Dear man,

here, take my hand.

Let's climb up

together.

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