a blonde braid is unraveling
a glass of milk is spilt
a blue eye is gouged
an alphabet is cursed
a border is crumbling
a nose is broken
a backbone is curving
a redline is smudged
a dollar is ripping
a badge is rusted
a train track is rotting
a gate is leaning
I saw a city crumbling into the mouth of
a many-headed beast. The beast was not
the terror, she was my cousin; the terror
was the sudden knowing that all
empires are made of paper and
I will tell you the horror,
and that is of the crumbling city’s silence.
Yes, its people had mouths. And yes,
they were stuffed with the broke-off limbs
of the conquered, refusing their shouting
breath. Elbow, elbow, fibula, knee:
the innocuous become the silencer,
the way the small do become the mighty
with new big bodies and opposable tongues.
Everything does weep, but oh
how it growls, when the wailing is done.
If anger, on the other side of fear,
is rage, this city was delivered to
death, with savage conviction.
I saw the beast lick the sinew
from her jaws, and the city—it was
still and clean, new and clean, bright
and clean and clean and clean as
the blood on my face.
We will remember nothing but the taste of salt and how it’s in everything, and how it never changes even though everything else does, and so we will cry and cry and be fed.
A woman will stand in the street and open her mouth, one summer night. Noiseless for hours until she retches up a star, hot thing covered in mucus.
I want to say something like it turns out that the sun had a face, which implies a mouth that knew all our names, but the truth is there will never have been any sun; only the North star, after all. It will fall down and land behind a woman’s house, in Detroit. It will be dark for weeks, and everyone’s eyes will glow.
Here and now will be the faded kind of memory like waking from a dream that loosens its grip as we become wider and wider awake. At the grocery store, we will hear someone whistling the old anthem. They will not be able to remember more than “oh say can you…?” Nobody will. Such is the case with ruins, ancient histories, blurry faces everywhere smeared by the fists of their conquerors.
Before today ends, statues will be plucked from their high places all over the country; this should be the first sign, but Whiteness will not see itself in this sure demise. They will learn.
There will be no flag, anymore.
Many will dream of bald eagles eaten by crows; pecked to death by crows. A woman will tell of seeing a crow pulling all the feathers from a dead bald eagle. None will remember this time, but the crows will. And so they will eat the grudge for our sakes.
america will be done and they will know it when the statue of liberty sits down to wash her face in the Hudson; her skin will be black. Your grandmothers will weep.
endings exist, ripped curtains, shock
and chrome and clay and captives and
coconut oil; patriots are vanishing or
existing less and less, aftermath
magnolias exist, their misty breath exists,
and whatever bodies below them are held
still, still and always; light caught in a
mirror is held, a daughter’s name held in
a mouth, a daughter’s hand held at
a crosswalk, crosswalks exist
808’s exist, subwoofers, streets, sidewalks,
and saints, saints and sidewalks exist
pavement, parked cars, patrols vanishing or
existing less and less
water exists and thirst on the tongue, thirst
exists; and doors and demons and
decisions exist too, danger exists; hush-hush
is vanishing, fences and maps vanishing too,
little men and their little militaries are
vanishing or existing less and less
you stand at the bathroom sink, brushing
your teeth in the mirror, when you notice
the reflection of some bygone era walk
across the floor of the hallway behind you,
you turn around, she shows you her hands,
muddy, vines under her nails, you
face the mirror, and she is gone
hands exist, hands, hoodies, hymns,
hind legs, and haha; haha exists, victory
and violins too; 808’s and dancing men,
full as a magnolia with the wind in its hair
exist; it’s joy and that exists too, aftermath
living is loud, but not the way dying is loud;
on the ground some found magic, the
sound of prayers exists, round bellies
of children exist, children exist, aftermath
there is your mother under a streetlight
calling your name after sunset and
you answer, you answer; answering exists,
answering exists, which means the
living exist, existing exists, and maybe
so much death is vanishing or
existing less and less
Yes, there will be blood;
it’s how everything arrives.
The blood will not be ours, anymore.
Gnashing teeth will be the song
we step to, because they will not
be our teeth. Do you understand?
What I mean here is the last leg,
the foot in the grave, the last inches
of rope. They laugh, now. But
they mock their own demise, and so
we laugh, too.
Sasha Banks is a poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in RHINO, Kinfolk Quarterly, Alight, Austin IPF, B O D Y Literature, The Collagist, and has been performed in Tulane University’s Vagina Monologues. Sasha is the creator of Poets for Ferguson and a MFA candidate at the Pratt Institute. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she is learning to be Black and spectacular at the same damn time.