I remember the boys & their open hands. High fives
of farewell. I remember that the birches waved too,
the white jagged limbs turning away from incessant wildfires.
The future wavered, unlike a question, unlike
a hand or headstone. The future moved & the fields already knew it.
I remember the war of the alphabet, its ears sliced from its face. I
know that language asks for blood.
The children of kudzu, lilac, the spit of unknown rivers. I remember the jury
& the judge of the people. The buckshot that blew
the morning’s torso into smoke.
That last morning I begged the grandmothers to leave their rage next to red candles
& worn photographs of their children & their blue-eyed grandson
with his bleeding heart. The savior bled flowers.
I scattered the stones the trees bore. Gray vultures came for my children.
They knew the old country better than me. They broke through
skyscrapers & devoured both villain & hero.
& boys were pouring, wanted & unwanted & missing yet from the long mouth
where their voices were forced to say they were nothing. But they were men,
& native & guilty beyond their glottal doubt.
I remember calling out to the savage field where more boys knelt & swung
through the air. I remember how their eyes rolled back
in blood, milk, & gasoline. Their white teeth
chewing cotton into shrouds, scars & sheets.
They gave me their last words. They gave me smiles for their fathers.
They slept in my arms, dead & bruised. Long as brambles.
The bullets in their heads & groins
quieting like a day. The meat of nothing.
I held their million heads in my lap when the bodies were taken away.
I don’t know if what’s left will dance or burn.
I wash their eyelids with mint.
But let God beg pardon to them & their mothers
& I don’t know if the body is a pendulum of where love cannot go
when the tongue is swollen with the milk of black boys.
I pulled their lives from the trees & lawns & schools.
The unlit houses & the river. Their forewings wet
& screaming. I won’t leave them,
huddled like bulls inside the stall of a word. I am the shriek,
the suture, the petal
shook loose from their silence.
Used with permission.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. She is the recipient of fellowships including the Cave Canem Foundation, Millay Colony, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her visual and literary work has appeared widely. Griffiths is the creator and director of P.O.P (Poets on Poetry), a video series of contemporary poets featured by the Academy of American Poets. Her third collection of poetry, Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose), was selected for the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her fourth collection of poetry, Lighting the Shadow, will be published by Four Way Books in 2015. Currently, Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn.
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