Poplar Trees

Caged Bird. StockPhoto

Some days I wake up feeling locked in a prison in my own body. They fight over this cage with no windows or bars or doors, just skin. I hate it here. Because on these days the light doesn’t shine and the sound doesn’t sing and I can’t scream. I can’t even be comforted by my own madness because mules don’t feel. 

On these days I think of brothers and sisters who never came down from the poplar trees. Staring into space, I wonder about the families who sat at picnics and watched their blackened bodies swing. They’ll never accept what the country is because they rationalize anything away to save themselves. I’ll never be free, except in the empty spaces of a quiet cell that weeps. 

Looking into another person’s eyes right then is like asking a cellmate for a scrap of bread. We both see the locks and know there aren’t any keys. 

You ever feel like someone’s super close but still mad far away at the same time? Look at their struggle, the utter disbelief at being imprisoned, the hurt there, the burdens, the gasps for breath. The low simmering fear of dying before their time. No wants to die locked in this way, before they have felt real, carefree joy, success, or safety. 

Only prisoners recognize the desperation of escape, the sheer recklessness of freedom. 

To walk down the street, eat skittles at night, sleep in a bed unencumbered, go for a run, blast music too loud at a traffic light, eat ice cream at home, get lost, or go to the store without being executed on sight and without warning is a blessing and a gift.

Outside’s a constant maelstrom. I hate it there too. I hate the loudness of their bombs and color wars. I hate the silent way people brush away death. That lives can be forgotten at all is both a mercy and a curse. Someone has to stop the record that’s on repeat.

The repetition is digging an ulcer into the pit of my stomach that will probably grow into some sort of ironic cancer or virus that eats away at me. 

On these days, sadness hangs around me like a softening melody from old piano keys. I trace the freckles on the back of my hand and catalogue the aches in my feet and knees. It’s too heavy to lift just yet so I do nothing.

I wonder how people can forget the bombings and lynchings when the same groups still have the ropes and crosses in the Capitol. They hadn’t even the courtesy to flip to Side B, just reused old t-shirts and ideologies from wars they lost like wrung out paper towels hung to dry in the breeze. But, I didn’t see a fear of death or police. I saw cuckolded rage. 

I’m too tired to rage. It’d be easier to curl up in the corner of my cell and sleep. I want to sleep and sleep. I want to rest for ancestors that never did. I want to lay in my bed and not fear a raid or bullet because America has exposed the ugly nerve and shown that it is in fact possible. If you are angry enough or white enough.

Neither of those things are what I want to be, but if anger will push the fear back long enough for me to want to live free, then anger it is. It will keep me warm at least. In this place of blackness, where a dearth of justice breeds sorrow, I will cultivate a little flame for my fellow prisoners and watch it grow. 

Some days won’t be some days anymore when the crackling blaze on the hearth frees us all. 

It’ll be hell for jailers and they’ll see it coming and they’ll watch it all burn, knowing.

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