lynching tree memoy


there are things I can never do

i do not take certain things for granted

no rose garden

only grey tinted glasses

blessed with memory too many people

afraid to remember least the scars come

open pus all over the crowded bus holding

small lives on their way to stale holes in

compressed realities with ghost hovering

over their sagging shoulders weighted by

impossible histories packed into tight

airless boxes no light no memories

no pain in amnesia curious freedom

i remember so i am not free to chain

others i can not be overseer can not

probe with blue gloves over hands that

are not part of the answer just more

of the question of how to be sane

with the memories of lynching trees

the shadows of broken bodies swinging

sorrowfully in southern breezes i remember

the name of black boys i never knew in life

just the memories of horrendous deaths

i remember the roads my great great grans

walked in emancipation freed into poverty

the shadows from the lynching tree breathing

shallowly in jim crows reach afraid of joe turner

remembering stories of ships bad masters cruel

mistresses i can not carry chains can not lash backs

can not stop and frisk count your pennies taxing you

in pharaohs name  can not deny you i love you better

than peter loved jesus love you well enough to

remember what you have forgotten in order

to open your eyes to something other than

the nightmare of real reality easier to sleep

easier to be sheep not all of them are slaughtered

only those that point out wolves

only those that can see

only those who remember

i remember all the reasons you are too afraid

to remember i sharpen weapons for the war

you won’t see i can not wear the uniforms

do the dances barely learned to speak the

language only did it to help me be of value to you

i am because we are

i remember

i can’t sell you god

i remember godz of thunder

dog stars and pyramids

i remember to pray with hands moving

i can not live on my knees

i remember being born free with dignity and everything

i can not settle for less i own my all-ness

the broken places from which we have risen

stumbling falling forward

remember us like a sky full of shiny midnight black crows

all together mystical and resplendent

rising above snares

that are not our imagination rather their machinations

wrought of fear designed to contain i remember

all the ways the songs been sung

the rope the whip the startled surprise

in bewildered eyes rough hands curses

no quarter in the madness no limits to

the transgressions under the authority

of tyrannical texts making profane things

seem sacred i remember being well before

the virus came the departure the separation

though doors of no return the abyss of

the ocean water burning lungs howling

from the pens home receding in the distance

the insistence that i was less than human

no tears no love no pain not human

beast animal property i remember being

human so i cling to it i will not be made

less i remember the shadows

the soulfelt sorrow

in bleak quarters the morning after

picnics & photographs of

visible hate poured on

like gasoline

the smell of sulfur

as the flame is lit

there are things i can not do

things i do not take for granted

no rose garden

only grey tinted

glasses i


painting by Ernie Barnes