by Shane Moran
My eyes are tired and heavy,
I’ve woken up, again, in the McGlothlin basement,
A Desire to be a good student drives me
To leave the books at such an irresponsible hour—
I exit from its lobby entering into the world.
It is an early Virginia morning
Fog blankets the Sunken Garden,
And as I cross I am squared
By the most honorable men that I should know.
(Tucker, Blair, Tyler, Ewell, Washington, Jefferson, Monroe…)
I walk down to my dormitory
Past the uninspired snowless ski lodge resort we call Sadler,
Down the hill, past the Crim Dell
Through the Evans Wildflower Refuge, on into the trails,
And out between the micro-apartments of the Randolph Complex,
Whose bricks match the falling autumn leaves in both color and desperation
Then forward up the concrete stairs, into the neglected courtyard,
Which is muddled with the dead leaves of nature’s last twelve sheddings,
I find myself between more name’s whose origins I cannot reconcile,
(Cabell, Preston, Harrison, Nicholas, Pleasants, Page, Giles…)
Then down an asphalt path onto a road neatly named, “Ukrop,”
I pass our own french garrison hill, into another courtyard
Desolate with cheap picnic tables and dormant dogwood trees
Standing, stiff, as a drunk college boy in sight of a passing police cruiser.
And it is when I see these things
That I know I made it home, to Botetourt,
A place that I am forced to know how to pronounce;
While the names of those I love,
Which are not historic to these halls will gladly be missaid
(Aboulhosn, Khalafalla, Okonkwo, Tookes, Zeineddine, Xiang...)
My hall is called Fauquier, I will live here until summer.
I find myself wanting to journey this morning.
I walk back across the road, once again passing Dupont,
The old brown brick dormitory with large black framed windows
Which guards this side of the campus from atop its hill.
Then I go over the bridge, I look down at the slow slithering currents
Gently swifting their way under me, I turn right at the end of the road,
Below the ironically named, Small Hall, onward towards the police station,
Onto a wooden pathway that leads me behind the College's expensive palisade
Of on-white branded success, Miller Hall.
Here I find a grand entrance with a name engraved on a great stone,
“Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre,” the pathway is covered in dirt
Almost too neatly spread with brown, brittle, and dry leaves,
Who kindly announce your entry to the woods’ humble residents,
And as I pass through, the trail is surrounded by tremendous trees,
Warm and dim guiding lights, bold birds and other wildlife that,
When you’re alone in the morning, hum the forgotten songs,
As the path leads me to the vast and open stage
I hear voices engaging with unremembered history,
An old and bygone Powhatan antiphony,
“One day she will return,” A strong man’s voice shouts
The crowd responds, “and that day Rolfe will burn!”
“One day she will come back,” the strong man prompts them
the crowd responds, “Until then we will not relax!”
I walk onto the stage and feel the desperate chant
Blair out its rage over the deceivingly man-made lake
I imagine the desperation of her people,
And the lusts of her captors, so disguised as salvation,
As the native people call out in a final cry, “Matoaka,”
All of this energy is placed upon our lake,
The aquatic home to many of the admirable men
Whose names defend the Sunken Garden,
These colonial neptunes which “god” sent
Are long gone, but their actions are not.
Those actions blessed us with Lake Matoaka,
Such a fruitful body, named after an extorted one,
She continues to bless us in the wake of her forgotten story.
As we row, swim, fish, and paddle across her waters,
Who do we owe our gratitude? Pocohauntus? Or is it her Father?
Or maybe our fair colonist, who built her?
I look out upon the water buried under the morning mist,
And feel the ominous spirit of Rebecca Rolfe surround me.
I am addled by the tears that fall from my eyes,
I am Matoaka, I too have been taken by surprise
And, I too, know not of how to return, without losing my life.
I’ve been stolen by a culture,
Shown off like the very best cattle,
Because I achieve and I speak
As if I was raised by a mother resembling a fragile eggshell,
Rather than a powerful black truffle.
Can I forgive myself for letting them construct me?
They only needed five small streams to make a forty acre lake,
And they’ll only need four short years to compose me
Within their colonial mold, to make the perfect and ideal shape
For this world that tells me I can only have a place…
If… I accept the invitation into the right-type of Tribe.
Oh! And is that James Blair I hear, at the top of the amphitheater
Working on a brand new pitch deck?
“This is what William & Mary education can do
We can make a savage,
or even a nigger,
Look and act just like me and you!”
A pitch that he has no idea has become very true.
The College has produced wonders of minority youth,
They created a place appearing fit for everyone.
Still, They may not say it, but everyone knows
That Lemon and Hardy are just for show,
To quiet those who’ve heard the ancient tribe repeat,
“One day she will return.”
We are all Matoaka
Living somewhere we belong, yet having nowhere to be,
Remembering families who long to keep us,
Who struggle knowing that our school has changed us, yet made us.
Each family singing a person tune everyday awaiting our return,
Begging for our return,
But everytime we reach the end of thames trying to go back,
It is our logic and our education that calls us home—
To Botetourt, to live in the face of our on-white branded reality.
It is an early Virginia morning,
The fog is clearing up,
The sun is rising over Lake Matoaka
My mother is calling and the tears are dry
The tribe’s melody is muted, I am surrounded by silence
I am Matoaka, but Rebecca too,
This identity of mine must do.