Letter to a Black Girl from her Great, Great Grandmother / Such Strange Fruit / Africa

[poetry]

Letter to a Black Girl from her Great, Great Grandmother

Once in a famine, I dropped

all my children into the soil

to replenish the garden.

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Women always choose

survival over sadness.  The story

of our constant lack goes like this:

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in a land, some land, any land, men 

stole the beans & rice, fed our bodies

to the war, any war.  They built china cabinets 

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to protect the things they loved

& cages to display their women

beginning a cycle of captive thought. 

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How many times can a woman be 

ravished before survival self replicates

in her blood?  I sold myself to a man 

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for black eyed peas once.  Gutted out

their tiny eyes and gave them back 

to my daughters.  Even seeds mistake
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the soil for safety, the farmer’s shovel 

for God.  I raised you like the Mississippi 

outrunning her shores.  I tended you 

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at the bosom of hunger and rain

outsourced from an unfamiliar sky.

I taught you to butcher a man’s bones

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and use them to till then grow

before he spreads you and plants 

you and then eats you alive.


Treat every man like a weapon

but don’t be his ammunition

lest you be spent to kill his

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enemies and your skin left

littering a ground you’re not

thought equal enough to set foot on.  

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I braided gun smoke into your hair

so you would never forget how they leave

us burning in the wake of history.

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Take my words nightly

like a pill & remember not to 

knot your tongue for him.
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Alphabetize my warnings

and sleep with my sacrifices

under your pillow so your dreams

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will drift far, far away from my hunger &

never grieve that your eyes are black lest

everything I surrendered be in vain.


Such Strange Fruit

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we have been folded into

the foliage of this oak like

night folds itself into day

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recesses of royal indigo tinge

the sky between the leaves

just above our charcoal crowns

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tillandsia arms hang down, now small, 

but still strong like the last 

smoldering embers of a cross fire
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heads tilt at reverent angles, ashen

chins pressed against blackened

torsos, frozen in that last moment
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of homage, preserved in the position

of communion with our ancestors

in hopes that we came from and 

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will return to somewhere important

when at last our ripened bodies

fall, burst, and return to the ground

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pelvis, calyx, and seeds, offered by fire

on an altar to a strange god

did our flesh drift up like a sweet

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smelling aroma, or did our legs

limit the flight of our praise as

our muscles contorted with the flames

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forever capturing our souls and

our limbs in a new kind of shackle?

Was it beautiful to make us ripe

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before our season? Did the countenance

of the sky change as our stems

and pits dissolved into the leaves?

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Will you leave us to be picked by

your children, when on an indigo day 

much like this one, they stumble 

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upon us hanging still from the branches

of America’s honorable aftermath? Or will 

you gather us in caskets, gently wash

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away our ashes, peel, cut, and

sugarcoat our meat? What kind of pie

will you make of such strange fruit?


Africa

Somewhere

East of Eden

in an era

that has now faded

into the recesses.

In that space

where Pishon amputates 

the ground

and everything

we have not eaten

grows unencumbered,

I am Mother.

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To sons and daughters,

created in turbulent oceans,

born breeched.

Delivered 

with skin and words

fully developed,

umbilical cords

knotted around 

their necks

in defiance

of the breaths 

I will forever 

give to them.

I am Mother. 

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Children of

four seasons,

I made you 

of the elements

and carried you

until you could

stand on your own.

Now you are 

upright,

trampling across

the very back

that bore you.

Devouring the one

who had already

given you

the fruit

of her womb.

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Children of

four corners,

I crafted you

from wind

and now wear

you like a cyclone,

struggling 

to understand

why you

tear me open

without regard.

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Yet I cannot

turn away.

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The proverbs say,

a mother must

always be ready

to let go 

of her children.

But with closed

and opened eyes,

I see you

in my night

and daytime dreams.

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I cannot walk away.

Even when

you write “Non-Applicable”

and draw a line

across my name,

I am Mother.

Sean has performed poetry throughout the country. In addition to her poetic endeavors, she is a painter, teacher, rock star auntie, humanitarian, and one half of the artist collaborative, The Cy’On Collection. Sean has been published in thirty-one anthologies worldwide, nominated for Texas Poet Laureate in 2018, published two chapbooks, and recently released her first full-length anthology, All My Heroes Were Assassinated.