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“I am the descendant of survivors,” I think as I reflect on the lynching trees.
I think of the pain, fear, and cautiousness that my ancestors experienced in their lifetimes.
The normalcy of it.
I think of how far we’ve come.
As a nation: one inch.
As my brothers’ and sisters’ force: eons.
There is so much pride I feel in their transcendence. I am here because they learned how to survive.
I wonder was it through power? Cowardice? Hiding?
How much does it matter? Isn’t there strength in whatever method works?
There are so many generations that did not make it. I am one of the lucky ones.
I get to live out the dreams that my ancestors cried out to the stars,
The ones they whispered into the void of a tunnel lit by a single flickering light,
The ones they inhaled from a friend after they bubbled up to the water’s surface,
The ones that danced in the breeze like the leaves on hanging trees.
I have the honor.
I have the pride of knowing they survived fear and turmoil for me.
The past is dark and grim, but the future is bright because now I hold the light.
Sometimes when people ask me what it means to be African-American, I tell them
It means to be lost.
Displaced from your real home; tribe; ripped from your roots --
But does it?
When I look up at the stars that may have guided generations of them,
Sometimes I feel as if I can see some of them blinking
Watching over me.
We’ve had these shackles on us since birth. Our umbilical cords being the first thing ever tied to us. Tied us down. As if our black mothers were giving us a slight taste of what our governments system would do to us later on.

Shackles.

Our fists formed twisted up knots and so did our stomachs. Our mothers told us to relax our fists and show our palms as to not look like the aggressors...as if to look like we surrender. Palms out. Empty. Hands up. Above your head where we can see them. We’ve been taught this since we were small. Palms out, clasp on the shackles.

Shackles.

Cells. How is it that black men make up 13 % of the population, yet make up 34% of the US prison system.

Cells.

And when they are not incarcerated, locked behind steel bars in small boxes they are lowered into them with flowers on top. Their own personal

Cells.

This is how they gain control. Palms flat like you’re begging. Be silent, but show intelligence. Work hard to earn the same opportunities as your counterparts. Be kind, be respectful, even when given disrespect. Show that you mean well. Lower yourself, show humility. If pulled over, do whatever is asked of you even if it is demeaning. Do you want your pride or your life? Hands where they can be seen. Don’t reach. There’s no need, your shackles are already around your wrists, what else would you need to grab for? Everything you need, everything you have, is in the palm of your hands.

Cells.

The education system will incarcerate you to implement their control. Detention. No recess. They do not want to help grow, but to bend, fold, and crease you like a paper doll until you fit neatly in your

Cells.

They will help prepare you for your cells until the prison system can take you. A form of control, not of rehabilitation. The world teaches you bad, but doesn’t teach you the good. Learn it on your own. In your hood, in your gang, in your fear, in your hiding. Just watch out for those

Cells.

It’s correctional. It’s the way to “keep the streets clean.”
It’s to silence. It’s to police. It’s to limit. It’s to break. It’s to destroy.

Cells.
I let Cupid carelessly aim an arrow at an apple on my head.
I never thought about how all of the targets he hit may have been accidents.
About what it would be like to pull the arrow out of my chest.
I couldn't stop the bleeding
and he didn't know how to patch it.
I realized then the dangers of putting your heart in the center of a crossfire
hoping,
hoping
the child with the arrow would spare it.
I loved you so much my heartbeat shook the heavens,
how dare you tell me I didn't love you hard enough?
This was supposed to be that soft love.
The kind that caresses your face like a light breeze.
It was enough to shake your soul
like it was rocking you to sleep.
I wanted it to soothe you
and leave you breathless
all in the same moment.
I wanted it to be as fierce as an earthquake
that shifts all of the plate tectonics back into place
like it was fixing a puzzle.
I wanted it to be as loud as a pin drop
in a dead silent room.
I wanted silence with you.
I wanted the screams to echo through your mind
like I was standing in the middle of
mountains and valleys
yelling to God all of the love stories
I wrote about you.
I wanted you to listen with your eyes closed
and your mouth open.
I wanted to feed you gentleness on a silver spoon.
I wanted to love you.
I wanted to be enough.
But your eyes were always as big as flying saucers,
and your heart only ever the size of a needle hole.
My love was never meant for you.
I am certain I fall in love just to watch them leave.
What better way to fill a hole than through writing?
I was never much of a gardener,
everything I watered died right before my eyes.
But I learned that if I planted a seed
right in the void in the center of my chest
and watered it daily with soft love and strong words,
I could grow something bigger than he ever was to me.
This is for the ones you have to make into poetry
because it's the only part of them that stays.
Your eyes were always bigger than what your mouth could carry.
I don't know why I let you keep me clinched between your teeth.
I always loved you enough,
But for you it was too much and not quite enough
all at once.
I wonder how big I would've had to make my heart swell
Before you realized how well you could
have fit inside it before.
I dedicated my time learning to mold myself around you,
Trying to teach myself the normalcy of being intimate;
Using my best efforts at embrace.
Little did I know the tighter I squeezed you,
the looser you held.
I spent months wondering how on earth I gripped you
with all my might,
'til my skin peeled back and showed bone,
Yet you still managed to slip through the spaces between my fingers.
I guess I forgot you liked sand
because of how easily you could knock down your castles.
This is what it feels like.

Scorching summer day, windows down, music blasting.
You never wore your seatbelt,
Hair always whipped around in the wind,
Teeth always reflecting off the hot summer sun.
You were always wild.
Never following rules,
Always bending them,
Always till they broke.

I admired that about you, I could never be like that.

This is what it feels like.

Fast cars in cool summer nights.
Breeze caressing our faces like a
Lost lover coming back after a long winter.

This is what it feels like.

Tires gliding on pavement.
Feeling joy kissed
And eager to be young.

This is what it feels like.

Bright lights flashing,
Horns blaring,
Tire skids.
A pain so sharp and swift like the crack of a whip.
Glass popping,
Seatbelt burns.

Black.

This is what it feels like.

"Accident on highway 610."
Static.
"One casualty. Female."

Static.

This is what it feels like.

"We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of..."

This is what it feels like.

Mourning love and loss.

This is what it feels like.

I know heaven would treat her well.
I can only imagine it smells like lavender and
The lights are so bright,
Yet  so soft it makes you feel like
You're in a dream world.

I miss you.

But I know sometimes when it rains and the
Clouds part open in the most curious of ways
When the sun shines through the breaks,
It's you telling me you're alright.

I know now there's no fear of bright headlights,
Only a captivating eternal glow
Captured in the lens of forever.

And I imagine when the rain is warm and rolls off of my arms

That if you touched me,

This is what it'd feel like.
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