Monday, September 25, 2006

Black Graduation

Dedicated to our valedictorian, you know who you are…

To understand this story
You have to remember
I wasn’t meant to be here

If you were,
Your humanity may let you understand
And be chilled to the marrow
But if you weren’t you will
Cry streaming songs of

I wasn’t meant to be here

I wasn’t meant to dream
to be born, reborn to even be birthed
But to be used, sacrilegiously

I woke up this morning
In a world
That does not mean for me
To survive

And so I fight with
All the winds of a subtropical
Storm that wants to rip every bit
Of my character and countenance
Until no part of me
is in tact

I am the daughter of a people
For whom the cross has more than one meaning
And all roads lead to
Questions for God,
But still, we pray, Lord when you come into your kingdom
Remember us

I don’t want the world's love,
For if I were of this world I would be loved
Because the world loves its own
Your adoration is fetching
It waits for me to feast
At a dinner which I can
neither stomach
nor afford

I will lick the burnt breadcrumbs
Of self
And drink the bitter waters of
Half lucid dreams
Today, I will walk on water, and through fires that purify
Because I know that
More than bread alone is required
And where my well is
And who it is calms the storm

I am drenched in 40 times 10
Numbered desires
Today I exist for every black woman
Who didn’t
And doesn’t and couldn’t
And even for those who won’t
Someone else will

I endure the chastening rod
Of thanksgiving
Even when my back
Was colored
With the battle scars of a war
Without weapons

A silent savagery
That left not even the most intimate parts
Of my soul

And still, I stand.

In a world that
Celebrates my demise
that waits for me
To tiptoe into the gauzy veils of its past
Until I trip my own inadequacies

God please...

If I have to claw and scratch my way through
My own self loathing
If I have to sell every stitch to my name
to keep my name
If I have to use my flecked fingernails to dig a
Hole through that unmined mountain of womanhood

By God, I will.

I’ve wrapped my mind around my abandoned history
Around its neglectful tendencies
minted it
So that it sits on a pillow waiting for
No one else but me.

Today I survive
Not only for my great grandmother who could not read
But for my grandfather who could
and never would read his own name
on a diploma
for my mother
who struggled because with three jobs and a degree
she was still a poor black single mother
with two kids

I survive for every
Every shade of broken glass
On streets named after our heroes
I survived every indignity
my love
when I am invited to
The dinner table
Because of the need for polite conversation

I survive despite so long a letter
And soliders
And the south
And semi-automatics
And enslavement

I survive, to sing a song of salvation, and justice
In a world that where my victories
Go unsung in the light of the tragedies I am cast

I survive for colored girls
everywhere who have considered the rainbow
like God told Satan to consider his servant Job
and decided to trust God

And yet,
With all my bravery, a part of me is standing in my own puddle
still just seeking to be free

But see,
I am the mother of my future
And the child of my past
And my past is a people
And the people are called by God
A God of the living not the dead
And because he lives
He walks among them

So even when my mother cries
God hears
And he walks they said she could never

To understand this story
You have to remember
I wasn’t meant to be here
I am the voice of ten thousand
That never entered the promised land
That were hard pressed
and short hoped
and downcast
And discouraged
and so alone that after they had battled
all they could do
was pant
and pray and
be still
praying on their knees
But standing on their feet
rising with all power

And so today, I stand, watered by
The tears of those who place
their hope
in my hand
And my small hand
in His
And I not only survive,

I live.

And if you lived, you too, would sing, America.

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