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Winter/Spring 2019

Requiem for a Monument


by Kim Harvey


Truth is on the side of the oppressed
-Malcolm X

For concretion, a hard mass
formed in a living body

For certain beauty held 18 meters
above the ground for a man made
14 feet high, for the gilded white clouds

For downriver where the bodies
float, for dark wet skin pulled
from the banks of the James

For shadow of horse and rider,
glorious against the setting sun

For Angolan summer
squash, Bantu barefoot
on the flat plains before
the terrible crossing

For the tobacco crop, cotton fields, corn and beans,
for dominion, for domestication
of wolves and wild birds

For thorny roots, for every
gathered tuber, for clay
pots cooking, hand-coiled,
shaped, scraped and melded

For our farms, for our sweat, for white-tailed
deer, for the streams and their tributaries,
for the sovereignty we sowed

For Tsenacommacah
before it was Virginia

For its four-named mother
Amonute with the secret
name Matoaka

For heritage, the good South, for Birch
Street and Roseneath, for cobblestone and
Easter bonnets

For welts, whips and belt buckles, the
town square where great-great grandfathers
were beaten naked and shackled

For innocence, picnics, the sweetness
of strawberries in June, the place
where I proposed marriage

For the fall line and the salt
water beyond, for the lost
and sold, for the children

What about the children What
will they inherit

What about lynchings, what
about black face, Jim Crow,
the back of the bus, pine tar,
lacerations washed in brine

What about tradition, preservation,
Reconstruction How will we learn
from our mistakes

What about the lost languages
Algonquian, Kikongo, Mbundu Families
torn apart What about teeth and fingers
taken as keepsakes Things worse than death

What about kind masters What about
forgiveness Maybe amalgam, maybe marble
Maybe we are kin Maybe you are better off here

Maybe you’ll remember bullets, bricks,
people set on fire, black bodies
dragged through streets

The past is the past

Who will be next

This is about compounding grief

This is about every composite sketch

This is my hometown It’s not about race

It’s about blood

It’s about jobs

It’s about disappearing

It’s what I know It’s my childhood

This is not your story to tell

We are all part of this story

This is not about race

This is a point of departure

This is about 1865

This is about 1965

The past is not past

We shall

We shall not

We cannot be

We cannot be moved.


[Check out Kim Harvey’s back porch advice]

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