Notes on the State of Virginia, III by Safiya Sinclair

                        – After W. E. B. Du Bois

Wild irises purpling my mouth each dawning—
                                                                 trauma souring the quiet street.
Its whole dark field roots me down and down. The mock-sun a blank obscuring. Fire whips
white-shock of lightning, bright Molotov angel, what ash marks assume a coon cemetery.

And all the names scratched out.
                                                                 What burns this house burns apishly.
                                                                 The mouth the church this immaculate body
such untouchable sounds we have made of ourselves. A blues archeology. Thus like a snake I writhe upward,
mottling and spine-thick, where heavy nouns flay through my tubercular,

                                                                 their heavens coil a twisted rope. Your veiled suffocation.
                                                                 Unknown asphyxiate. The mourning-dove which scales
                                                                 its double gaze in tongues knows this: the broken world
                                                                 was always broken.

How does it feel to be a problem? The mute centuries shatter in my ear.
                                                                 The aimed black spear. This body, a crisis.
                                                                 A riot. A racket. The whole world whistling.

Harass me a savage state, vast hectares will tar this noon infertile, each day a prisonhouse, my sickbed
                                                                                                                     caulking each bloom a bruise.
Quick hands swathe me in miles of cotton. Now blood-stained sheets in my room.

                                                                 There is an old woman who is not my grandmother.
                                                                 There is an old sadness I was born to wear like a dress.
                                                                 She feeds me condensed milk through a bird-feeder
                                                                                                                                      and smiles,
                                                                 says don’t pay attention to the flies in my eyes.


— from Safiya Sinclair‘s Cannibal, (University of Nebraska Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and a 2016 Whiting Writers’ Award.

This is part 3 in the series Fallen at Charleston, guest-edited by Brenda Marie Osbey.

Fallen at Charleston

“How We Could Have Lived or Died This Way” by Martín Espada

“Notes on the State of Virginia, III” by Safiya Sinclair

“What a Fellowship” by Afaa Michael Weaver

“Black 101” by Frank X Walker

“Black Bird” by Terrance Hayes

“Live Oak” and “Riposte XIV” by Shauna Morgan Kirlew

“Fallen at Charleston” Introduction by Brenda Marie Osbey

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