However the image enters its force remains within my eyes rockstrewn caves where dragonfish evolve wild for life, relentless and acquisitive learning to survive where there is no food my eyes are always hungry and remembering however the image enters its force remains. A white woman stands bereft and empty a black boy hacked into a murderous lesson recalled in me forever like a lurch of earth on the edge of sleep etched into my visions food for dragonfish that learn to live upon whatever they must eat fused images beneath my pain.
The Pearl River floods through the streets of Jackson A Mississippi summer televised. Trapped houses kneel like sinners in the rain a white woman climbs from her roof to a passing boat her fingers tarry for a moment on the chimney tearless and no longer young, she holds a tattered baby's blanket in her arms. In a flickering afterimage of the nightmare rain a microphone ****** up against her flat bewildered words "we jest come from the bank yestiddy borrowing money to pay the income tax now everything's gone. I never knew it could be so hard." Despair weighs down her voice like Pearl River mud caked around the edges her pale eyes scanning the camera for help or explanation unanswered she shifts her search across the watered street, dry-eyed "hard, but not this hard." Two tow-headed children hurl themselves against her hanging upon her coat like mirrors until a man with ham-like hands pulls her aside snarling "She ain't got nothing more to say!" and that lie hangs in his mouth like a shred of rotting meat.
I inherited Jackson, Mississippi. For my majority it gave me Emmett Till his 15 years puffed out like bruises on plump boy-cheeks his only Mississippi summer whistling a 21 gun salute to Dixie as a white girl passed him in the street and he was baptized my son forever in the midnight waters of the Pearl.
His broken body is the afterimage of my 21st year when I walked through a northern summer my eyes averted from each corner's photographies newspapers protest posters magazines Police Story, Confidential, True the avid insistence of detail pretending insight or information the length of **** across the dead boy's ***** his grieving mother's lamentation the severed lips, how many burns his gouged out eyes sewed shut upon the screaming covers louder than life all over the veiled warning, the secret relish of a black child's mutilated body fingered by street-corner eyes bruise upon livid bruise and wherever I looked that summer I learned to be at home with children's blood with savored violence with pictures of black broken flesh used, crumpled, and discarded lying amid the sidewalk refuse like a ***** woman's face.
A black boy from Chicago whistled on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi testing what he'd been taught was a manly thing to do his teachers ripped his eyes out his *** his tongue and flung him to the Pearl weighted with stone in th e name of white womanhood they took their aroused honor back to Jackson and celebrated in a ******* the double ritual of white manhood confirmed.
"If earth and air and water do not judge them who are we to refuse a crust of bread?"
Emmett Till rides the crest of the Pearl, whistling 24 years his ghost lay like the shade of a ***** woman and a white girl has grown older in costly honor (what did she pay to never know its price?) now the Pearl River speaks its muddy judgment and I can withhold my pity and my bread.
"Hard, but not this hard." Her face is flat with resignation and despair with ancient and familiar sorrows a woman surveying her crumpled future as the white girl besmirched by Emmett's whistle never allowed her own tongue without power or conclusion unvoiced she stands adrift in the ruins of her honor and a man with an executioner's face pulls her away.
Within my eyes the flickering afterimages of a nightmare rain a woman wrings her hands beneath the weight of agonies remembered I wade through summer ghosts betrayed by vision hers and my own becoming dragonfish to survive the horrors we are living with tortured lungs adapting to breathe blood.
A woman measures her life's damage my eyes are caves, chunks of etched rock tied to the ghost of a black boy whistling crying and frightened her tow-headed children cluster like little mirrors of despair their father's hands upon them and soundlessly a woman begins to weep.