fires had seed in the flowers

Kim Hunter

(with thanks to my comrade Hemant D.)

fires had seed in the flowers

of your emerging south

and you like the young buddha

privileged connected by birth

bloomed in atlanta

south of the future

you walked on words and bridges

laid out for you

by sing song african orators

who fertilized the ground

and the congregations before you

some even cleared your grave space

swinging beneath the broad poison

leaves of southern chivalry

histories around the corner

of ebenezer baptist church ladies’

group smile baby-sitting

at daddy king’s and hold

fans with quiet

white gloves remembering

listened through sermons

through the starch in our clothes

listened through the oil

in our hair

hoped for a connection

a shield for our children

thought we wanted one

like your daddy made for you

you fill the pulpit

you crowd the breathing space

with round sonorities

love and justice in america

two angels hold the sepulcher

open and you walk toward

the sheriff’s trained hell

hounds cannot swallow us

we are too many and whole

even when bleeding

we are more in jail

we are the seed

in the fire that flowered in memphis

detroit newark chicago

in houses of iron and ice

built for temporary humanity

demon factories junky stare

open wide at death orifice

in chicago

where they boo you junior king

these slum northern negroes

with lake ice and doo rags

caught in their teeth

won’t let them scream or sleep

they fight you inside

themselves at night

don’t want to want

don’t want to know the police dog

and if the streetlights show

us only broken

glass and our children’s blood

then fire may

illuminate the dark metal

fumes between buildings

who could know

what was south of the future

memphis

where garbage worked on

people had eaten all their

dreams down to the rubble

you can only borrow

with raw callused hands

bent from holding on

this was no world

from the ripe son of privileged tongues

where had those lips

whispered and signed

before the sun shifted

wounds south of the future

where you walked with us

people so lost from

justice made us hungry

digested our food in other bodies

dropped our kids

off in strange neighborhoods

where gasoline leaked in bottles

clogged with rags and politicians

campaigned for souls

they could not return

were you dreaming of this?

on those languid sundays

the smell of fried chicken drifting

from the feast downstairs

and the congregation waiting

to touch the hem of your garment

did you dream the walk

from church carpet

to blood bridge

from Selma to Memphis

where some of us breathed dog shit

to feed our families

and read our unpublished obituaries

already in the garbage

were you released

from the bondage of saving our souls

given up

the illusion of wings and come falling

down with us

because hell is just another place

like my-lai pine ridge cabrini green beirut

stopovers on the way

to love and justice

two angel sirens birth the names

of the middle passage dead

and those whose true names

were folded beneath flaps

of skin mutilated for safe

keeping your name

is there now

held like an heirloom

a revelation

your speaking

to the overseer’s kids

tracing the origin of their

body bags and other cancers

with your soft scalpel

immutable flowers

sharks’ tooth crucifix

and the involuntary shaft of light

that was all of our voices

growing out of your throat

ATC 84, January-February 2000