To the Killers of Us

To the Killers of Us

What did you do to us?
Did you drink our skin,
make tea from the powdered layers?

Did you weave our coffins
with hair from our own heads,
was this you?

And what of the whorls
that used to grace our fingers?
What happened to the trace of us?

Are we the ones who scream at your deathbed?
Were we the ones who said we forgive you,
who sometimes beat and call our women bitches,
tell them to fuck off and get the fuck out, who remove
our tongues to kiss men in dented corners, wake
with your name stuck in our teeth or branded on our cheek,
who tell stories of bright rooms and closed familiar hands when
we are too young or open sidewalks when we are old enough
to watch you choke us again and again while we yell,
We can’t—
or say nothing,
was this us?

Who were we then?
What are we becoming?

Some days we wonder what is left for us to love.
Some days we wonder what’s left of us.

Tell us.

You who have taken almost everything,
but this white butterfly holding onto purple
for dear life, or the sweat that comes from
bucking bales, or seeding sweet corn we planted
with hands we trace from singing
the million ways Black and Brown hearts die
and live, still we live
stories no one believes or wants to hear,
like the love that rinses our tilted tear gassed faces
into a milky caul,
or the small passing of sage our nephew bound,
juniper, yellow and red roses,
into our open hands,
true true medicine, ours to burn
and bathe in smoke,
stoke each heart and limb
for that next time fire.
See—

You have not taken any of these things,
not the music or the beat or the drum we hollowed
from cottonwood, cut on our land, strung with animals
we soaked and dried our own selves, these skins,
the remains of our staggered breath,
yes,
we, the survivor of many,
who will love and live still,
we know what you’ve done,
we’re telling who you are.

 

 

by Rae Paris  (many thanks to the friend who gifted me the phrase “survivor of many”)

 

 

 

 

 

5 comments on “To the Killers of Us

  1. Beautiful, sad, and hopeful that our voices can still be heard despite the din of those who refuse to see us today, much less consider the history of our lives. I’m more on Medium now than I am here, so I’m glad I didn’t miss this. It should be read by many.

  2. Jeffrey Curtis Wray says:

    To one of my favorite poet – writers who has made me consider the term ‘survivor’ (of many) with new eyes. Went to a Michigan State University protest tonight. Hundreds of students – black, brown, Native, queer, trans, Muslim, white – and a few of us older folks were present too. They were and are indeed telling ‘who you are’ and more importantly that the ‘survivors of many’ are also the fighters of many. This generation is ready. They won’t back down.

    Thank you for the reminder wrapped in beauty. Needed it in this moment.

  3. Kai EL' Zabar says:

    What a beautiful testimony to what is from what was. Love your imagery and rhythmic flow that touches the ebb of those edges that hold me back from jumping off or juming out, I am still in so I jumped in once. Thank you!
    What a beautiful testimony to what is from what was. Love your imagery and rhythmic flow that touches the ebb of those edges that hold me back from jumping off or juming out, I am still in so I jumped in once. Thank you!
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