05 May 2006

Gerald Barrax

[from Gerald Barrax's From a Person Sitting in Darkness]

Whose Children Are These?


Whose children are these?
Who do these children belong to?

With no power to watch over,
He looks at them, sleeping,
Exhaustion overwhelming hunger,
Barely protected with burlap from the cold
Cabin. Fear and rage make him tremble
For them; for himself, shame that he can do no more
Than die for them,
For no certain purpose. He heard about the woman,
Margaret Garner, in spite of the white folks' silence.
How she killed two of hers
To keep them from being taken back.
Killed herself after the others were taken back
Anyway. So she saved
Two. He couldn't save his Ellen and Henry.
Who do these belong to?
He doesn't dare kiss them
Now, but stands dreaming,
Willing these five back
To a place or forward to a time
He can't remember or imagine.
All he can do is find the place
He knows about. Leave now
Before dawn sets the white fields raging
And murders the North Star.


Grandsire, I kissed, blessed, chewed, and swallowed your rage
when I stood over the five you sent, warm in their beds,
and force-fed my stunned dumb soul to believe someone
owned, someone bought, someone sold at will
our children, Grandsire, I held them, I held them
as you could not, and revered that fierce mother
whose courage and whose solution I could not.
But we have not rescued them altogether.
We moved them through one dimension, from one killing
field to another on history's flat page,
1850s' slavery to 1980s' racism and murder.
Baraka has told us "They have made
this star unsafe, and this age, primitive,"
and it is so. I stood over each child sleeping
and looked at each child and wanted to know
who decides to break our hearts one by one by one.
The Greeks named it Tyche and made a goddess of chance.
Here they call it this god's "mysterious Will."
I have the children, but we have not saved them
from this primitive star, and I can't forgive.

          10 September 1985

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