I remember the boys & their open hands. High fives
of farewell. I remember that the birches waved too,
the white jagged limbs turning away from incessant wildfires.
The future wavered, unlike a question, unlike
a hand or headstone. The future moved & the fields already knew it.
I remember the war of the alphabet, its ears sliced from its face. I
know that language asks for blood.
The children of kudzu, lilac, the spit of unknown rivers. I remember the jury
& the judge of the people. The buckshot that blew
the morning’s torso into smoke.
That last morning I begged the grandmothers to leave their rage next to red candles
& worn photographs of their children & their blue-eyed grandson
with his bleeding heart. The savior bled flowers.
I scattered the stones the trees bore. Gray vultures came for my children.
They knew the old country better than me. They broke through
skyscrapers & devoured both villain & hero.
& boys were pouring, wanted & unwanted & missing yet from the long mouth
where their voices were forced to say they were nothing. But they were men, invisible
& native & guilty beyond their glottal doubt.
I remember calling out to the savage field where more boys knelt & swung
through the air. I remember how their eyes rolled back
in blood, milk, & gasoline. Their white teeth
chewing cotton into shrouds, scars & sheets.
They gave me their last words. They gave me smiles for their fathers.
They slept in my arms, dead & bruised. Long as brambles.
The bullets in their heads & groins
quieting like a day. The meat of nothing.
I held their million heads in my lap when the bodies were taken away.
I don’t know if what’s left will dance or burn.
I wash their eyelids with mint.
But let God beg pardon to them & their mothers
& I don’t know if the body is a pendulum of where love cannot go
when the tongue is swollen with the milk of black boys.
I pulled their lives from the trees & lawns & schools.
The unlit houses & the river. Their forewings wet
& screaming. I won’t leave them,
huddled like bulls inside the stall of a word. I am the shriek,
the suture, the petal
shook loose from their silence.
Copyright © 2015 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Rachel Eliza Griffiths was born on December 6, 1978, in Washington, D.C. She received an MA in English literature from the University of Delaware and an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.
She is the author of four poetry collections: Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books, 2015); Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2011), which was selected for the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus American Library Association; The Requited Distance (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2011); and Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books, 2010).
Also a visual artist, Griffiths is the creator of Poets on Poetry (P.O.P), an intimate series of interviews, which gathers more than fifty contemporary poets together in conversation to discuss poetry in relation to individual human experience and culture.
Her honors include fellowships from Cave Canem, The Millay Residency, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Soul Mountain, and Vermont Studio Center.
Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York City.
Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books, 2015)
Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2011)
The Requited Distance (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2011)
Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books, 2010)
Date Published: 2016-03-24
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/elegy