– 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
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.
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