Then and now

BURNED

My head is killing me. I try to touch it, but I can’t move my hands or feet. Are my eyes open?

I can’t see. It’s so dark. I’m scared. I smell something familiar, food! But with a mixture of burning wood.

Grease is falling and burning my skin. Oh Lord, help me, I don’t want to die like this. Please, not this way! I’m going to perish because I was seeking information about my child that was ripped from my arms. I would give anything to see her one last time. I just want to focus on my family. It’s hard, I’m trying not to scream. Lord, please take me home. I couldn’t help it. It hurt so much that I passed out…

HUNG

The sun is deep frying my back. There is a crowd of Blacks and whites, and I’m not going to make eye contact, I stare at the sky, and for a moment the earth stands still. Then the noose is placed around my neck and I began to panic. I know what’s in store for me. One moment I’m standing, the next my feet are dangling, the blood in my head is stopped, my veins start to protrude in my neck, and there is no breath, yet I’m still trying to catch it. I kick and thrash, never feeling anything. Where is my air? I hear a lot of screaming and cheering, along with sobbing, and my spirit leaves my body.

WHIPPED

A tall caucasian man reeking of cigars and booze walks up, then abruptly stops mid-stride, and spits out his tobacco. He has a grin on his face, hidden by the sun. He wipes his forehead and starts to unravel his whip. 

He swings the whip with such force it makes him grunt.

A scream is stifled, and the whip goes back with pieces of skin falling off, then back down again, ripping into the skin, and opening up old wounds.

This time the scream can be heard all over the plantation. Every time the whip hits the flesh, everyone who can hear it flinches.

At one time or another, they have all witnessed this pain or something like it, on public display. Many can’t help but start weeping. 

The body that was being mutilated by the tree falls to the ground, lifeless but still breathing.

BOILED

“Get going!” commands the overseer. I have a special bath for you. The sweet smell of maple assaults the man’s nose. The man is not well, but he knows he must do as told, and walks. The sugar house is not bright but dull in light. The man can’t focus, and sickness and hunger consume his thoughts. He’s interrupted by a hit to the back of the head, it sounds like a baseball colliding with a bat. The man’s head hits the cement, the overseer is screaming but the man only understands one command: “Get up!”

The man manages to stand halfway, but his vision is blurry and he has an instant headache. He isn’t even up straight before he feels a kick to the back. “Move it!” The man moves forward but he’s so weak. He does what he is told, and the smell of maple becomes overwhelming. Before the man can react, his whole body is on fire, the overseer pushes him into the sugarcane and proceeds to drown him, holding him down with the two-by-four he hit him with. The man can’t scream. The cane is so hot it boils his throat on contact. His spirit leaves his body in time to see the effect, drowning and watching his skin fall off. When the cane cools off the overseer puts his finger in it and tastes it. He smiles. “This will be my special grease.” 

Reliving a scene I have never seen passed down from DNA with memories from those before 

can you help me

unsee what I saw

you can try to 

unsee these tears

unseen is the 

new thing

your mind and 

memory see

and record 

horrible things

you have seen 

a video of help

committing murder 

you try to cover your eyes

your heart still sees 

watching someone die

the unseen tears 

from your heart

leek out your

eyes

its seen by so many 

the kicks, hits , shots 

you want to live

being told

stop

resisting

this is a unseen message

to stop living 

your skin color is seen 

you are on the ground 

for being unseen

whitewashed is seen 

though eyes that can see

you know this 

crime scene is

the last thing 

you will see 

but your DNA will keep your memory


Issues |Systemic Racism

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