I am growing a new tongue
That will tell me who I am,
Remind me of my stories
And sing to me the songs I have forgotten.
Strong backs and heads
Carried firewood and water over many miles
Arms and backs ploughed and harvested
Wombs gave birth
Bleeding into the future, into remembering
Hands and hearts raised their young
Taught them the ways of their ancestors
Taught them to worship their gods
Spoke with tongues firmly rooted
In the blood
Their stories their poems their songs.
We shared the same tongue
Until it was ripped out
And we were left with the root
Bleeding into the past, into forgetting.
A million hands
Lying on the floor of the jungle,
Piled so high they threaten to reach the sun.
Menís womenís tiny childrenís hands
That would not could not did not
Work fast enough chopping the rubber.
Steel blade slicing through,
Blood spurting, soaking the earth
Hands drying and baking in the heat,
Flesh rotting, fingers withering,
Never to paint or carve or sew or write,
Returning to the earth.
The blood, the blood
Soaking into the timbers of a ship
Splashing at the cut of a lash.
Dripping onto the auction block.
Calling my name.
It screams, it shouts, it whispers, it sings to me.
Tracking sticky red footprints.
Drying, crusting on the back, the legs.
The blood that flows through my veins still.
The bones of a million people
Lie at the bottom of the sea.
Gleaming glistening rotting
Cleaned by the fish
While salt water swirls around them.
Voices cried out long ago,
Remember me, remember this,
Donít sail away
And leave me lying here.
I can hear them still.
Starved whipped tortured
The blood called to them:
I must be free.
Flowing, pumping, beating
Day after day
Night after night
It would not let them rest.
Mouths filled with fear
Bellies burning with rage
Hearts demanding justice
Hand grasping a cutlass
Arm raising a knife
Fingers kneading poison into bread
Stirring it into soup
The blood always remembered.
Flowing, pumping, dripping, pooling,
It called to them
Shouted to them
Whispered to them
Sang to them.
I WILL be free.
They told their stories
Mother to daughter
Father to son
Blood to blood.
My ears have been filled with lies
About my people and about me.
But the stories that told me who I was
Still lie nestled deep within my ears.
I can barely hear the drums
That beat, beat, beat
In rhythm with my heart
And with the hearts of my people.
But my feet remember we shared
One rhythm one step.
I am cleaning out the lies that have filled my ears
So that I can hear the drums again.
My eyes no longer see the pictures,
The shapes, the colours,
The curve of wood,
The bright fabric twirling around my head,
In colours of the sun
But the pictures sleep behind my eyes.
Pictures that tell me who I am.
Our feet trace the steps
That our ancestors trod
And step where theirs once stood
As we are working out
Where we are now
And how we got here
My dance has steps that have never been danced before.
I paint with colours that have never been seen.
My tongue caresses your ears with notes that have never been sung.
My stories tell of heroes and villains, of pain, of loss, of courage.
Bits have been left out
A finger an eyelid a drop of blood
But still we gather our stories
Our pictures our songs.
Our laughter our joy our tears our rage
We create something new
As the blood seeps through.
We have lost a line, a word, a note
A colour a shade
A hemline a stone
A corner an angle or a page
But we are gathering up the stories
Of who we are,
Where we have been and are now.
And what we may become.
Copyright © Zhana 2005
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Read the article Celebrating Black Heroes and Sheroes, here.
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