She looked at me,
Carved out of the backs of slaves
The grit from their hands shining in her eyes.
And from her mouth poured a cultural tapestry
Died in ferocity and sweat,
Blood and perseverance,
A pride that ramrodded through her back,
slammed out her jaw
Right into mine,
Which knocked me back for a second--
For, you see, I have no roots.
My color changes depending on the temperature,
And I don’t have my own isle in the beauty department.
I have no great struggle, I own no great blood,
And by virtue of my heritage alone--
I am no great woman.
We came from coal country and Florida,
From Ireland and England
Where the blood of the oppressed mixed ever so easily with that of the oppressor
And made me this pale shade of nothing.
The bastard child of progress,
With no side to take,
And no one to fight with me.
I am alone,
And I have no roots.
The mustard seed strewn throughout my line fell on Kentucky clay.
That’ll only grow certain things,
and then not always,
And seldom in me,
Not yet in me.
I come from two islands I’ve never seen,
And listen for the god I’ve never known,
And get lost is crowds of me,
Seas of me,
For where black is beautiful
White is ubiquitous--
But simply not in this year.
So kiss me I’m Irish
Or fuck me I’m Florida
Or kill me I’m Kentucky
But see me.
My history does not fan behind me, peacock style
Embroidered with the greats who have come before me,
For I have no claim.
I have no roots.
Maybe I’m no plant.
Maybe roots hold you still,
Maybe feet let you go.
‘Cause I ain’t no drunken crack with a shillelagh,
And my upper lip only stiffens when I snarl.
I’m not wildcat blue or emerald green
But a fine clear window on blood hot enough to move,
With stones for eyes
Searching for my brethren,
Looking for my kind,
Cutting through to find those likewise drowning
In a sea of anonymity,
Reaching out to clasp close any kind.
For as we are no one’s,
Are we not yet everyone’s?
Have we no grit on our hands?
Those hands that can shape the soil
That may yet hold roots.