Burying the Dead
Memorial for slave cemetery in Asheville, N.C.
In our town
out of sight
past Wyoming Street
up on the hill behind St. John’s Baptist Church
lay aged bricks, rocks and baskets of bones,
where the dead are not truly dead,
their silent mouths far from quiet.
Speaking crow they wrestle the blueness from night
and lift sorrow from its deeply veiled sleep.
runs an Indian trail,
a forested hill
I could call my own.
Not too far from downtown
living beneath the tangled brush
a cemetery of slaves merge with the Cherokee and their trail
unmarked lines carrying both streams of blood
that course unceasingly through my veins.
Both trails have found my heart
intersecting where spirit meets bone
and I have taken to walking the block
putting down feet and prayer
on both foreign and familiar ground.
On this walk I am found,
joined, graced and haunted
by an urgent need quite like death and birth.
Call it a bitter dream I keep reliving
try to pin it on the past
remind myself of the passage,
the dead will bury their own
they haven’t so the crow flies,
pecks and caws on my forgetfulness
calls to me through shutters tilted open.
I rise from my couch of restless sleep.
I rise from my doing
from the mundane task of washing clothes.
I rise because I cannot wash my hands of this
these spirit bodies hovering
souls littered across the land
calling to open skies,
any vessel open
as to how they have not rested in life or death;
how they have not claimed this land
or purchased a stone to mark
on a hill
behind a church
in a town
in these mountains.
This cry is not made of “i”
it is made of a glorious tormented collective
of a blueblack and red “we.”
into a cry so bitterly ruined
of broken wings, cracked bones and splintered dreams.
Screaming the woes of heavy air
and the pain it takes to turn gospel into blues;
a weight only crows can carry
on their blueblack backs
singing the harsh call to be heard
the call of crows
chanting through unpleasant beaks
the unsingable to us,
we who are on earth walking
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Comments about this poem (Burying the Dead by Glenis Redmond )
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