fires had seed in the flowers

— Kim Hunter

(with thanks to my comrade Hemant D.)


fires had seed in the flowers
of your emerging south
and you like the young buddha
privileged connected by birth
bloomed in atlanta
south of the future
you walked on words and bridges
laid out for you
by sing song african orators
who fertilized the ground
and the congregations before you
some even cleared your grave space
swinging beneath the broad poison
leaves of southern chivalry


histories around the corner
of ebenezer baptist church ladies'
group smile baby-sitting
at daddy king's and hold
fans with quiet
white gloves remembering


listened through sermons
through the starch in our clothes
listened through the oil
in our hair
hoped for a connection
a shield for our children
thought we wanted one
like your daddy made for you


you fill the pulpit
you crowd the breathing space
with round sonorities
love and justice in america
two angels hold the sepulcher
open and you walk toward
the sheriff's trained hell
hounds cannot swallow us
we are too many and whole
even when bleeding
we are more in jail
we are the seed
in the fire that flowered in memphis
detroit newark chicago
in houses of iron and ice
built for temporary humanity
demon factories junky stare
open wide at death orifice


in chicago
where they boo you junior king
these slum northern negroes
with lake ice and doo rags
caught in their teeth
won't let them scream or sleep
they fight you inside
themselves at night
don't want to want
don't want to know the police dog
and if the streetlights show
us only broken
glass and our children's blood
then fire may
illuminate the dark metal
fumes between buildings


who could know
what was south of the future
memphis
where garbage worked on
people had eaten all their
dreams down to the rubble
you can only borrow
with raw callused hands
bent from holding on


this was no world
from the ripe son of privileged tongues
where had those lips
whispered and signed
before the sun shifted
wounds south of the future
where you walked with us
people so lost from
justice made us hungry
digested our food in other bodies
dropped our kids
off in strange neighborhoods
where gasoline leaked in bottles
clogged with rags and politicians
campaigned for souls
they could not return


were you dreaming of this?
on those languid sundays
the smell of fried chicken drifting
from the feast downstairs
and the congregation waiting
to touch the hem of your garment


did you dream the walk
from church carpet
to blood bridge
from Selma to Memphis
where some of us breathed dog shit
to feed our families
and read our unpublished obituaries
already in the garbage


were you released
from the bondage of saving our souls
given up
the illusion of wings and come falling
down with us
because hell is just another place
like my-lai pine ridge cabrini green beirut
stopovers on the way
to love and justice
two angel sirens birth the names
of the middle passage dead
and those whose true names
were folded beneath flaps
of skin mutilated for safe
keeping your name
is there now
held like an heirloom
a revelation
your speaking
to the overseer's kids
tracing the origin of their
body bags and other cancers
with your soft scalpel
immutable flowers
sharks' tooth crucifix
and the involuntary shaft of light
that was all of our voices
growing out of your throat

ATC 84, January-February 2000

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