By: Tara Davoodi
as i sit there, digging
i can’t help but think
that all of this is futile.
scooping out soil from
the embalmed earth,
planting rotten seeds.
ancient stones, quartz and granite
recovered in sweaty palms
darkness burrowed under fingernails,
nothing but wild exiles
for this ground to swallow.
i am only digging holes
in this yard, in this soil
i thought was my soil,
in this land i thought
was my land, in this america,
i dig up nothing but pain.
give it a couple of weeks
and this poison loam will eat up
those leaves, yank them back into earth
soft petals choking, stems falling—
someone will mistake weeds for blooms
and call it eden.
i brush my fingertips
skimming your surface, your
placid waters of heat. billowing
steam released into the air, the way
that fog settled over your plantations,
where women gave their bodies to the earth
to reap soil, reap leaves, reap blood. i cup my palms
in forgiveness as i sip your golden sugar, your
jaggery, your sweat. your history steeped in those
ancient emerald climes, your trivial leaves
steeped for only a minute, or two.
i press you against my lips,
raise ceramic to sky,
and drink to your health.
a few spare yellowed bones placed
over his reddish gums, tucked behind his
gleaming pearly whites. crumbling
teeth plucked from the mouths
of hollowed men
who broke their backs on his plantation,
bodies of dust and soil.
he hid them behind pursed lips like a dirty secret.
in fact, they say he rarely spoke.
i think often that this is because of the rotting enamel
eating away at his mouth. the secrets of slaves slipping
through his lips, stinking of earthen, metallic
virginian black blood.
how they must have screamed,
must have clawed with fibrous fingernails
hands already raw from picking tobacco.
i think of how it was just one more thing taken from them.
one more thing passed into the mouth of our father
the blood of our country.
i live in his city.
we shuffle towards them in silence
with straight bodies and solemn breaths.
great stone mountains, neatly arranged in grey rows.
shadowed in the smothering, obsidian smoke
of museum walls.
from the deep earth of china,
the display reads.
their eyes rested forward, firm and resolute
as if preparing for battle,
they humble soldiers of the east.
hands grasping their spears and swords
metal armor like a lock, trapping them
in their own bodies.
our still lips mirrored, clenched fists replicated
by the men of rock
on the opposite side of the room.
so many stone faces in this room.
when the warriors were first made, the audiobook says,
they were painted in color.