Bloodlines (revised last stanza)
It took a move east to resurrect
my Southern roots. To remind me
of the Kentucky in my bloodline
the racists I know well. How they
flourish in the fertile hatred of today.
Always there are reasons. So they tell me.
It took the familiarity of mountains
I had never seen their hazy blue ridges
to heal my seared wounds. Allow me grief.
Worn tops softened by water, these
are the mountains my grandmother
who would not watch a black newscaster
crossed to Oklahoma. They are my bones.
And now the children of her children’s
children’s children mingle black brown white
like the soft silt beneath the resurrection fern.
They paint the landscape with their laughter
in the bright languages of love. Far away from then.
Here among the spruce and fir, hawthorns
berry after dogwood. Tulip poplars reach out
above the ridgelines of the old houses beneath.
A man in Roanoke writes the stories of nooses
and the men & women who hung from them.
Time is a river that erodes the shores of memory.
This is not the state where my young lover
fled a car that ran him over, driver laughing.
Nor is this the state where a friend was warned
Don’t be caught here after the dark you resemble.
That South too is a thread in my mother’s cord.
I have fed from the bloody hands of ‘good people.’
I have noted the excuses for their hatreds, all
in the name of some white god. Perhaps the god
of my grandmother, but not her children’s
children’s children. It took a move east
for me to remember this.
Something more than blood lives within these hills
Something resurrected not from the bones of hate
but from the ashes of forgiveness, that warmed
the coloured mud we grew from. Like the grief I hold
within me, grief I cannot give a name to.
Like the nameless Southern colours neither black
nor white. Like the soft blue mountains
that have seen it all before. Like memory