Dark Fire Catches

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 this fabled american dream, 
you know: the one built on our ancestors’ screams
and stolen virginities and ruptured skin?
You know. 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—
you know they cannot lie, cannot hide
our history of muted cries and mass hearses.
You know we have bled for centuries, 
watching you 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 once coated in melanin glory
turned cotton picker, 
turned strange fruit, 
whose final use was to hang pretty
from oozing, burning poplar trees, 
turned economically dispossessed,
turned systematically separated, then concentrated
to become obliterated,
then obligated to choose criminal.
From enslaved to caged,
or, for optimal public safety, 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
patiently wait to be seen. Felt. Uprooted.

But they know
we are too punitive, too fragile to know Justice.
We are too comfortable
with the rope burns on our palms
and the ashes on our fingers
to be honest before the mirror.

But the alternative
is a face-to-face with
the Lion.
The Impatient.
The Dark.
The Fire.
The Negro.

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

I will not bow to your timetable for my freedom

because there is Negro ash on the trees of my people,
quiet blood soaked into their leaves.

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