apologia, alabama

we were not the revolution
we gathered in sight of the monuments
we held up our phones at arms’ length
standing on the bridge looking for
droplets of iron and salt
rinsed away by rain 53 years ago
my father was twelve and then thirteen
I mean this happened in his lifetime
but now we have already gone so soft

in the slavery museum
he called us wenches and bucks
yelling in militant cadence
absent of feeling, at ease in the work
‘bend your knees, don’t you look at me’
and we did, and we didn’t
and some of our comrades laughed
because they are really from the continent
and they don’t have this memory in their veins

I feel defensive of my bloodline
and in those small rooms of wood and drama
I wept, but quietly, ashamed to be the open wound
when I’m supposed to be a teacher

we met people in the small town
they all came out to touch our hands
I wanted to tell them
‘I learned to breathe from a man who migrated north from around these parts
to breathe freely
to say the word revolution in the mirror
and feel capable of the terrible’
I learned to be somebody, of many,
a miracle in a realm of ubuntu

but we sat in the room
as if blackness was a wilderness we had controlled
as if we knew how it should be lived
as if it were solid and real and forever
as if we carried no seeds in our mouths
only tornados, glaciers, or chasms
as if history was a door closed behind us
and not this rope fraying at our
withered, willing necks