before the war

on families

we were different


warm hands
deep voices
roses in the spring
melon in the summer
school clothes
car vacations
aunts uncles
grandpas’ & grannies
presents on Christmas morning
Easter dinner
church on new years eve

we were holding vigil
keeping the watch granny said

we remembered cotton
sunrise to sunset
hard working
in factories, construction,
in kitchens, garages
in slaughter yards
rail cars, ship yards
steel mills
work for willing hands
our hands were willing
school days learning
America from America
pledging allegiances
seeking assimilation
like a warm coat in
a winter that won’t end
cold water dreams &
hot water corn bread days

fathers in houses
holding us accountable
showing us what men
look like we saw we knew
we followed in footsteps
hoping to climb higher
we remembered cotton
we were determined
we pushed & got shoved back
heads high we sat down
we shall not be moved
answered by hoses dogs
drowned in the ink of
institutions that dug
holes for our dreams
we were waves rising
marching chanting
we taught the world
to sing freedom
granny told us about cotton
we remembered to remember

we became doctors lawyers
judges store owners
soldiers accountants
teachers & preachers embracing
the gospel of boot straps
legislated rights
sitting spooks at doors
praying our time
in the bosom of
the past wrapped round
us as we stood on it
reaching together
in small backyards
at birthday parties
reunions & repast after
funerals of old people
who know the people
in the pictures

& the neighbors who knew

them & you since you were little
bringing food telling stories
that keep the connection
alive because we knew
we were all walking the same
way on the road
building home with our hearts and hands

even after urban renewals
after imminent domain
after the factory, mill, garage closed
after the prison opened
after heroin swallowed 110th st
before freeway rick
before Vietnam
before the post office took granny’s
house stuck her in the projects
she never owned another house

died sleeping on Aunt Glo’s couch

where the cousins all grew up

where childhood memories lived
until the bank refinanced Aunt Glo’s house

the same house the bank
would not give her grandfather
the money to build
they refinanced it during the
boom then lowered that boom
when Aunt Glo could not float the
balloon they hung in the
small print

before cousin Fat Boy
thought he was an urban cowboy
& they caught him with
scales in his Cadillac
bright red with white wall tires
granny would not ride in it
but we saw Fat Boy &
some followed him to
prison then took that ride
to the graveyard with him

we moved

like sharecroppers

like dream chasers

like those denied a resting place

with hope and persistent faith

in the America we learned in

rooms filled with other brown children

we moved for jobs

we moved to find a place

we moved to get away

we moved

to the projects no yards
no swings no park
daddy gone mama got to work
be worked work the system
get into the system of
manlessness boys become
men in houses with sad
women who must go on
who lay with men who won’t
raise other men’s children
or their own
are still children them self
numbered caged missing
from dinner tables

dinner tables missing
micro wave dinners
on laps in front of screens
chasing other realities
children lost to street corner
fantasies even weeds will
grow wild things bloom
whether or not they are cared for
sisters see mothers
settling suffering struggling
lost in following suit
lost in rebellion
who will save the babies
born to babies
girls looking for love
smothered by responsibility
twerked worked confused
by media men and the tide
washing away what it means
to be a woman redefined
by a public sphere that
chains them with labels
after chaining them in reality
we are in transition in to

a visibility we craft but

have not found the time

or ink to write the rules

or overstand the story

of broken families

broken connections

broken like covenants

family overwritten by

myth ethnographers & Fox news

what happened to black families

the ways we saw ourselves

when we were whole

or more whole

or strong in the face of the

holes dug by ink institutions

& hate before we fell into

the holes shattering

the whole of

the mother father child

thing we relearned after

the spoons in the bottom of

the boat thing

before the cotton fields

after the sharecropping

after world wars

war on drugs

war on terrorism

war on black men

war on black women

war on black children

before the war

on us

we remembered cotton

we were different

About Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD

I create; therefore I am.
This entry was posted in North American African Perspective, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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