Lynching in the United States

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Trudging up the rutted road
        eyes cast down
                    I found a stone
marked like a heiroglyph
        purple-red wings outspread
                like a sign at birth
you don't expect
        perfect heart-shaped shard
                as every broken heart
is nothing but itself
                more wholly shown
summit view a moonscape
        in my bones the weight
                of dynamited
mountaintops sunk deep
        I crossed then flared my arms
                the spirit yell I conjured
echoed back
        from every blasted crack
                singing to heal
the murderous white
        drone that numbs
                and poisons the air
I felt you there
        so many there
                in the devastated ground
original light-filled holy
        shattered to the core
                the missing
who dance in us
        fierce grace
                those who have formed
mounds for corn
        canoed the rivers
                laid the tracks
dug the ditches
        stitched the wounds
                stifled moans
spread the word
        harvested the crops
                rocked and taught the young
fled the chains
        unshackled the enslaved
                evolved the unions
I feel you now
        in the wind of our unfolding
                redemption's songs
here at the perfect
        broken rock we circle and weep
                circle and sing
and feel the rock the whole
        world holds as we hold
                each other true
the rock we name
        split open
                wild and blessed
sparks released
        that we sink together
                deeper into our knees
and breathe
        and move the rock
                lifting lifted
as we are moved
                to rise

Copyright © 2016 by Janet E. Aalfs
Poet laureate emeritus, Northampton, MA
Lotus Peace Arts at Valley Women's Martial Arts #413-320-3248

A few of the countless poetic voices that inspire and embolden me:
...but when we are silent we are still afraid.

So it is better to speak remembering
we were never meant to survive.

Audre Lorde

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.
Muriel Rukeyser

Don’t you hear this hammer ring? I’m gonna split this rock
And split it wide!
When I split this rock,

Stand by my side.
Langston Hughes

For any spark to make a song it must be transformed
by pressure. There must be unspeakable need, muscle of 
belief, and wild, unknowable elements. I am singing a 
song that can only be born after losing a country.
Joy Harjo 

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