Best of the Net 2015  


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
                                       with clouds

& 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.

- Rachel Eliza Griffiths (from The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database)