Waiting On The Mayflower

i. august 1619

arrived in a boat, named
and unnamed, twenty, pirated

away from a portuguese
slaver, traded for victuals.

drowned in this land of fresh,
volatile clearings and folk

with skin like melted
cowrie shells. soon shedding

servitude. soon reaping
talents sown on african soil.

after indenture, christians,
colonists. not english, but

not yet not-white. antoney
and isabella, whose marriage

stretched the short shadows
of america's early afternoon

into the dusky reaches of evening,
whose conjugal coitus spent

first the choice coin of africa
on rough virginian citizenship,

baptized their son, william,
into the church of england.


ii. december 1638

fear must have shuddered
into boston on the backs

of true believers—men and
women of an unadorned god—

deep in the heavy black fabric
of their coats and dresses like

a stench. black a mark of
pride they wore as if branded,

never dreaming they could
take it off. envy anticipated

their advent. glittered at them,
settling in, from the knife

blades of the massachusetts.
seeped like low-pitched

humming from the fur
lining the natives' warm

blankets. but desire docked
in 1638. in from the harbor

flocked a people whose eyes
sparked like stars, even near

death. whose hair promised
a mixture of cotton and river

water and vines, a texture
the fingers ached for. who

wholly inhabited a skin the
midnight color of grace

that clarified the hue of the
pilgrims' woolen weeds. fear

and envy claimed pride of place,
put desire's cargo to good use.


iii. march 1770

that night, crispus attucks
dreamed. how he'd attacked

his would-be master and fled
in wild-eyed search of self-

determination. discarded
virginia on the run and ran

out of breath in salt-scented
boston. found there, if not

freedom, fearlessness. a belief
in himself that rocked things

with the uncontrolled power
of the muscular atlantic, power

to cradle, to capsize. awoke
angry again at the planter

who'd taken him for a mule
or a machine. had shouldered

a chip the size of concord
by the time the redcoat dared

to dare him. died wishing he'd
amassed such revolutionary

ire in virginia. died dreaming
great britain was the enemy.


iv. july 4th: last
but not least

17-, 18-, 19-76 and still
this celebration's shamed

with gunpowder and words
that lie like martyrs in cold

blood. africa's descendents,
planting here year after year

the seeds of labor, sweating
bullets in this nation's warts,

have harvested the rope,
the rape, the ghetto, the cell,

the fire, the flood, and the
blame for you-name-it. so

today black folks barbeque
ribs and smother the echoes

of billie's strange song in
sauces. drink gin. gladly

holiday to heckle speeches
on tv. pretend to parade.

turn out in droves for distant
detonations, chaos, controlled

as always, but directed
away from us tonight. stare

into the mirror of the sky
at our growing reflection,

boggled by how america
gawks at the passing pinpoints

of flame, but overlooks the vast,
ebony palm giving them shape.

by Evie Shockley

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