Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


who will be the messenger of this land

who will be the messenger of this land
count its veins
speak through the veins
translate the language of water
navigate the heels of lineage
who will carry this land in parcels
paper, linen, burlap
who will weep when it bleeds
and hardens
forgets to birth itself

who will be the messenger of this land
wrapping its stories carefully
in patois of creole, irish,
gullah, twe, tuscarora
stripping its trees for tea
and pleasure
who will help this land to
remember its birthdays, baptisms
weddings, funerals, its rituals
denials, disappointments
and sacrifices

who will be the messengers
of this land
harvesting its truths
bearing unleavened bread
burying mutilated crops beneath
its breasts

who will remember
to unbury the unborn seeds
that arrived
in captivity
shackled, folded,
bent, layered in its
bowels

we are their messengers
with singing hoes
and dancing plows
with fingers that snap
beans, arms that
raise corn, feet that
cover the dew falling from
okra, beans, tomatoes

we are these messengers
whose ears alone choose
which spices
whose eyes alone name
basil, nutmeg, fennel, ginger,
cardamom, sassafras
whose tongues alone carry
hemlock, blood root, valerian,
damiana, st. john’s wort
these roots that contain
its pleasures its languages its secrets

we are the messengers
new messengers
arriving as mutations of ourselves
we are these messengers
blue breath
red hands
singing a tree into dance

Credit


From Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Jaki Shelton Green. Used with the permission of the author.

Author


Jaki Shelton Green

Jaki Shelton Green is the author of eight collections, most recently I Want to Undie You (Jacar Press, 2017). In 2019, Green was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She currently teaches Documentary Poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and serves as the poet laureate of North Carolina.

Date Published: 2019-08-21

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/who-will-be-messenger-land