Headlights make golden strands from rain falling on a dark street. Once you pulled me into you by the hair, hard, to kiss. Now my body - without the seatbelt of your body - is swerving all over cold, flooded roads.
At first she thought the lump in the road was clay thrown up by a trucker’s wheel. Then Beatrice saw the mess of feathers.
Six or seven geese stood in the right-of-way, staring at the blood, their black heads rigid above white throats. Unmoved by passing wind or familiar violence, they fixed their gaze on dead flesh and something more, a bird on the wing.
It whirled in a thicket of fog that grew up from fields plowed and turned to winter. It joined other spirits exhaled before dawn, creatures that once had crept or flapped or crawled over the land.
Beatrice had heard her mother tell of men who passed as spirits. They hid in limestone caves by the river, hooded themselves inside the curved wall, the glistening rock. Then just at dark they appeared, as if they had the power to split the earth open to release them. White-robed, faceless horned heads, they advanced with torches over the water, saying, We are the ghosts of Shiloh and Bull Run fight!
Neighbors who watched at the bridge knew each man by his voice or limp or mended boots but said nothing, let the marchers pass on. Then they ran their skinny hounds to hunt other lives down ravines, to save their skins another night from the carrion beetles, spotted with red darker than blood, who wait by the grave for the body’s return to the earth.
Some years the men killed scores, treed them in the sweetgums, watched a beast face flicker in the starry green leaves. Then they burned the tree.
Smoke from their fires still lay over the land where Beatrice travelled.
Out of this cloud the dead of the field spoke to her, voices from a place where women’s voices never stop:
They took my boy down by Sucarnochee creek. He said, “Gentlemen, what have I done?” They says, “Never mind what you have done. We just want your damned heart.” After they killed him, I built up a little fire and laid out by him all night until the neighbors came in the morning. I was standing there when they killed him, down by Sucarnochee creek.
I am a mighty brave woman, but I was getting scared the way they were treating me, throwing rocks on my house, coming in disguise. They come to my bed where I was laying, and whipped me. They dragged me out into the field so that the blood strung across the house, and the fence, and the cotton patch, in the road, and they ravished me. Then they went back into my house and ate the food on the stove. They have drove me from my home. It is over by DeSotoville, on the other side in Choctaw.
I had informed of persons whom I saw dressing in Ku-Klux disguise; had named the parties. At the time I was divorced from Dr. Randall and had a school near Fredonia. About one month before the election some young men about the county came in the night-time; they said I was not a decent woman; also I was teaching radical politics. They whipped me with hickory withes. The gashes cut through my thin dress, through the abdominal wall. I was thrown into a ravine in a helpless condition. The school closed after my death.
From the fog above the bloody entrails of the bird, the dead flew toward Beatrice like the night crow whose one wing rests on the evening while the other dusts off the morning star. They gave her such a look:
Child, what have you been up to while we were trying to keep body and soul together?
But never mind that now. Here’s what you must do:
Tie a red flannel string around your waist. Plant your roots when the moon is dark. Remember your past, and ours. Always remember who you are. Don’t let those men fool you about the ways of life even if blood must sign your name.
Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh XXI Dynasty by Thomas James
My body holds its shape. The genius is intact. Will I return to Thebes? In that lost country The eucalyptus trees have turned to stone. Once, branches nudged me, dropping swollen blossoms, And passionflowers lit my father’s garden. Is it still there, that place of mottled shadow, The scarlet flowers breathing in the darkness?
I remember how I died. It was so simple! One morning the garden faded. My face blacked out. On my left side they made the first incision. They washed my heart and liver in palm wine— My lungs were two dark fruit they stuffed with spices. They smeared my innards with a sticky unguent And sealed them in a crock of alabaster.
My brain was next. A pointed instrument Hooked it through my nostrils, strand by strand. A voice swayed over me. I paid no notice. For weeks my body swam in sweet perfume. I came out Scoured. I was skin and bone. Thy lifted me into the sun again And packed my empty skull with cinnamon.
They slit my toes; a razor gashed my fingertips. Stitched shut at last, my limbs were chaste and valuable, Stuffed with a paste of cloves and wild honey. My eyes were empty, so they filled them up, Inserting little nuggets of obsidian. A basalt scarab wedged between my breasts Replaced the tinny music of my heart.
Hands touched my sutures. I was so important! They oiled my pores, rubbing a fragrance in. An amber gum oozed down to soothe my temples. I wanted to sit up. My skin was luminous, Frail as the shadow of an emerald. Before I learned to love myself too much, My body wound itself in spools of linen.
Shut in my painted box, I am a precious object. I wear a wooden mask. These are my eyelids, Two flakes of bronze, and here is my new mouth, Chiseled with care, guarding its ruby facets. I will last forever. I am not impatient — My skin will wait to greet its old complexions. I’ll lie here till the world swims back again.
When I come home the garden will be budding, White petals breaking open, clusters of night flowers, The far-off music of a tambourine. A boy will pace among the passionflowers, His eyes no longer two bruised surfaces. I’ll know the mouth of my young groom, I’ll touch His hands. Why do people lie to one another?
I’m contributing to this (other’s work, not my own), different to what I post here. I’d love you to follow if you’d like to read (even more) poetry, especially as I really like what Slade has been posting so far.
Woofer (When I Consider the African-American), Terrance Hayes
When I consider the much discussed dilemma of the African-American, I think not of of the diasporic middle passing, unchained, juke, jock and jiving sons and daughters of what sleek dashikied poets and tether fisted Nationalists commonly call Mother Africa, but of an ex-girlfriend who was the child of a black-skinned Ghanaian beauty and Jewish- American, globetrotting ethnomusicologist. I forgot all my father’s warnings about meeting women at bus stops (which is the way he met my mother) when I met her waiting for the rush hour bus in October because I have always been a sucker for deep blue denim and Afros and because she spoke so slowly when she asked the time. I wrote my phone number in the back of a book of poems I had and said something like “You can return it when I see you again” which has to be one of my top two or three best pickup lines ever. If you have ever gotten lucky on a first date you can guess what followed: her smile twizzling above a tight black v-neck sweater, chatter on my velvet couch and then the two of us wearing nothing but shoes. When I think of African-American rituals of love, I think not of young, made-up unwed mothers who seek warmth in the arms of any brother with arms because they never knew their fathers (though that could describe my mother), but of that girl and me in the basement of her father’s four story Victorian making love among the fresh blood and axe and chicken feathers left after the Thanksgiving slaughter executed by a 3-D witchdoctor houseguest (his face was starred by tribal markings) and her ruddy American poppa while drums drummed upstairs from his hi-fi woofers because that’s the closest I’ve ever come to anything remotely ritualistic or African, for that matter. We were quiet enough to hear their chatter between the drums and the scraping of their chairs at the table above us and the footsteps of anyone approaching the basement door and it made our business sweeter, though I’ll admit I wondered if I’d be cursed for making love under her father’s nose or if the witchdoctor would sense us and then cast a spell. I have been cursed, broken hearted, stunned, frightened and bewildered, but when I consider the African-American I think not of the ten nines of my generation deployed by madness or that we were assigned some lousy fate when God prescribed job titles at the beginning of Time or that we were too dumb to run the other way when we saw the wide white sails of the ships since given the absurd history of the world, everyone is a descendent of slaves (which makes me wonder if outrunning your captors is not the real meaning of Race?). I think of the girls’ bark coloured, bi-continental nipples when I consider the African-American. I think of a string of people connected one to another and including the two of us there in the basement linked by a hyphen filled with blood; linked by a blood filled baton in one great historical relay.
When the level of suffering in any individual reaches a certain point and he can’t deal with his own discomfort, then he is going to look for some kind of solution. I don’t think any religious quest is begun with a sense of luxury. I don’t think any serious study is undertaken unless the being is broken with some kind of suffering, either physical or psychic. I don’t think anybody undertakes a serious religious examination unless they’ve been creamed somehow by the world. And once that happens, once the heart is broken and once you recognize that the heart is broken, then various paths open to individuals. And there are very many different paths. That’s why we should never take a position from one path or another on the other paths, because the broken heart illuminates a path and it is a different path for each broken heart. I understand that when you say the words “broken heart,” lots of people just turn off. But the truth is, this is the beginning of wisdom, to understand that you are deeply uncomfortable here. That discomfort illuminates its own solution and it is often years before you take that solution. So you poke around at the different solutions that are available. Maybe you come to the ones that are most familiarly articulated, your own religion. Most of the religions around are pretty good for that. It may be a political solution. It may be an ascetic solution. It may be a hedonistic solution. None of us has the right to judge other people’s solutions to suffering.
Leonard Cohen’s comments from a 1988 CBC broadcast “Leonard Cohen: A Portrait in First Person” narrated by Moses Znaimer.
In China, this phenomenon is called Buddha’s light. It was often observed on cloud-shrouded high mountains, such as Huangshan Mountains and Mount Emei. Records of the phenomenon at Mount Emei date back to A.D. 63. The colorful halo always surrounds the observer’s own shadow, and thus was often taken to show the observer’s personal enlightenment
at where i work i know a girl who slurs her words the way you would—but not the way when you were drunk and loud, would sway still tall, balconied, your sentences blurred. no, not watered—slow—sinking, but laughter sure, close-confident, talking nights away in your Christmas-lit room. bedded, we lay close side by side, wrist brushed against finger. i loved you once and there in that soft hush; then her: ladder-perched, her voice a blush.
How many public sinks left running for ghost hands? Your change given in foreign coins and still coming up short. Imagine all the salt shakers loosened upon the world; names scrawled into sidewalks; people who hate people and work in services you have to tip; patrons making waitresses cry right now. Right now there are sleeper cells waiting to hit you hard on the shoulder as you make your way home.
When I can finger someone who looks responsible for these acts, I follow them home, dump their trash cans, throw a brick through a window, take a long piss on the front door. Harsh, yes, but half measures are what brought us to these times. When those sirens wail for me I know I am an ancient god, running from all I’ve done.
“What I am saying is that writing is magic and that it is a very potent form of magic. And that, unless we recognize how potent, how powerful this technology is, and how profoundly and how even in many non-rational ways, it influences our experience, unless we recognize the magic of the written word, then we are simply under its spell. And, it’s not by chance that the word spell has this double meaning - to cast a spell, or to arrange the letters in the correct order to spell out a word. Because these two meanings were at one time very, very close. Because to learn to read with this new magical technology, to be able to arrange the letters in the right order, to actually conjure, as it were, that thing that you just spelled—it was experienced by oral peoples, who had not met the written word before, as magic, as a very powerful form of magic.”—Dr. David Abram, http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/abram.htm (via dialoghost)
“I’ve been thinking of how I might engage pendulation—the movement between different kinds of sentences (theory, autobiography and poetry, for example): as between: different parts of the nervous system. An experimental prose form lets me do this. It lets me write about the body in this way. It lets me touch something lightly many times.”—
black keys from trees white keys locked on black shoulders locked together above skeleton ribs keys to 45 keyboards from one tusk the word ivory rang through the air one tusk + one slave to carry it bought together if slave survived the long march sold for spice or sugar plantations if not replaced by other slaves five Africans died for each tusk 2 million for 400,000 American pianos including the one my grandmother played not to mention grieving villages burned women children left to die the dead elephants whose tusks went to Connecticut where they were cut bleached and polished while my grandmother played in Illinois my mother played and I— there were many old pianos and slaves were used till the 20th century: an African slave could have carried a tusk that was cut into white keys I played, starting with middle C and going up and down
Like the anorexic Ellen West, Myrrha must surrender to a monstrous desire, to what ‘even the gods call [a] GIVEN’ of her existence; she races to comprehend and articulate her passion, a passion which, ‘if you do NOT resist it CANNOT be reached' - and which, if expressed fully, will destroy her.”—Frank Bidart, from Desire