In memory of Anthony Crawford,
Lynched. 1916. Abbeville, South Carolina.
 100 years later,

Dark Fire Catches.

The fresh scent of evil here is heavy, 
the wind is a witness.

Strange fruit hung here with over two hundred bullet holes.
The spirits did not forgive this.
Strange fruit hung here in the Southern breeze
for resisting the unnatural order of things,
for daring to partake in the american dream
that was built on its ancestors’ screams and
stolen virginities and ruptured skin, withered from whips—
understand, this white, gritty, 
bloodstained rose of a dream
was built on the African nightmare.

The crumbled, consecrated soil, the scent of burning sage, 
and the eerie sway of once-innocent branches—
they cannot lie, cannot hide
our history of muted cries and mass hearses.
We have bled for centuries, 
watching them burn and massacre our churches.

Now, Reverend sleeps with a gun beneath his head.
The gun sleeps on cotton covers, beneath cotton pillows,
tucked in cotton cases to reprieve cotton children clothed in
the legacy of branded backs of melanin glory turned cotton picker, 
turned strange fruit hanging from
oozing, burning poplar trees, 
turned economically dispossessed,
turned systematically separated, then concentrated to become obliterated,
then obligated to turn criminal.
From enslaved to caged,
or cold, pulseless, still,
body leaking, weeping crimson that will seep
back into concrete, 
into bedrock,
away from textbooks and speeches into the backbone
of this Babylonian nation. 

This land is soaked in blood.
The winds whisper what they have witnessed.
The roots beneath Mr. Crawford’s mutilated temple of a corpse
beg to be seen, felt, uprooted.

But they know
we are too punitive to know Justice.
We are too comfortable with the rope burns on our palms
and the ashes on our fingers
to know Peace.

But the alternative
is the Negro turned lion.
The Negro turned impatient.
The Negro turned dark.
The Negro turned fire. 

I have grown tired of steadying my fist.
We have grown weak from watching each other bleed. 
So we will not be pacified by your brand of peace,
your lust for the absence of tension.

I will not bow to your timetable for my freedom.

There’s Negro ash on our trees of my people,
                                                                                                                                                                     quiet blood on the leaves.

Keep your reparations.
I want the head of your king.

Benjamin Raji