become shroud dirty rags of a holy book that supposedly forgot to stand vigil over our children ransomed to sun beneath each month’s moon hidden or full the daughters of other mothers themselves likely near death send us prayer shawls send us poems send us slabs of crystals a mother opens her mouth it is always wailing blood metallic bullets ride the mucous in her throat tease the pregnant ball of fire brewing inside her head we open our mouths to allow the blood to speak through light that does not choke the blood speaks through light that out races breath mothers swallow all the blood their stomachs can hold licking sidewalks playground swings back seats of dirty cop cars we become vampires who have no fear of light who have no fear of sexy silver bullets trying to crawl up our thighs we no longer fear the photographs of our children dying with mouths wide open their last sentences holographic prayers caught in between flash and light we sprout swords smiles that curse the memory that your first word was light is the balm traveling quieting a hysterical womb your first word was light now you swim with dolphins feeding them tiny particles of light filament your small teeth would chew and chew all the light your mouth could hold you later fed the ice to your baby brother calling crushed ice stars for a baby brother it has been a year full of a thousand years each month each day chasing the other inside my womb pulling grasping cramping for a blood birth of history herstory already told already buried already rotten a year full of limp apology dead proclamation faceless monsters breaking the shadow dance of other children more mothers drink the blood appear in daylight wild eyes speaking searing truths our daughters hold so much of the mothers grief inside their own wombs that become tombs for babies that scream no i’m not coming to this world this plight this revolution that is brewing inside a vampire’s apron pockets inside grandmother’s kitchens where they are stitching witching weaving brewing ancient fodder to feed another storm of harnessed lynched shackled light mothers become a season unto themselves storing winter blood mothers have become too familiar with death as personal as the found wisps of a son’s single strand of hair or the stale perfume stained handkerchief folded hidden inside your child’s pocket we are reminded in between each touch of warm lavender jasmine lemon cypress water cleaning stroking kissing soothing the cavity created by nine sexy silver bullets that we are mothers swimming strong in rivers so ancient they need no names in between the honey and rosemary balm massage in between each finger each toe we are reminded that we have always buried our dead and we have always raised our dead we are ancient vampires reckless eating stars lights full moons sexy silver bullets blue monsters we are strange language strange face strange dance we are the ghosts of all the children speaking through the smoke.
my plants thrive whether i water them or not in this house museum of tragedies smudged handwriting that does not translate into any language smeared across walls crawling out of equatorial fog mass a bloom of tropical air lifts your hair into this dry horizontal wind inside this house a wind you deny we love beneath bedraggled backyard roses they too hold shadows sadness in their petals a slap of razor to the walls whispering morning sorrow becoming song for the death of things green the eroticism of suede bare sleek wood glass balls hanging steel bulbs is not lost on me i awaken in the center of the slave girl’s dream not that one but this new slave girl in the center of her winter flower dream in the center of white clustered petals inside dark praying palms fingerprints pressing hard against make believe wedding dress a bouquet of nettle primrose queen anne’s lace her life barely a whisper barely a whimper from the floorboards of an open book her heart remembers all the flavors of danger she married them all before in another dream beneath canopies of thistle lace spread over burial grounds singing wisteria one legged sparrow dagger -toothed womb sassafras mouth she married them all in geeche swamps moss covered lynching trees houses built on rooster bones liquor stills cotton plants that cry when you touch them my heart opens in the center of the new slave girl’s dream where her vows are a shudder of blessed death stronger than any other light she swallowed before stronger than this dream dust i birthed you in april you were nobody’s apology nobody’s unadorned table you made the dying worth living i am the scribe paid in silver a shepherd girl barely old enough to tell her story she opens my hands and counts the silence the emptiness inside each space of joint that is dead breathless I know my hands have emptied many wombs cried for the remembrance of dead babies lost shepherd girls my hands now receive all the disguises of everything i have forgotten how to name how to count how to love.
JAKI SHELTON GREEN is the Lenoir-Rhyne University Writer-In-Residence and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of fame in 2014, and was the the state’s first NC Piedmont Laureate. She is the author of Dead on Arrival (Carolina Wren Press) and 7 other poetry collections. Her poetry has appeared in Callaloo, Cave Canem African American Writers Anthology, Home is Where: An Anthology of African American Poetry from the Carolinas, and Idodine Poetry Journal, among many others. She is the owner of SistaWRITE, providing retreats and travel excursions for women writers.