: is metal & venom, lead
that whitens our lips as we sleep. perfume
of formaldehyde on our children’s fingers
: is silent. is silence. aphonic
scream into the hostile empty: we,
our tongues so raw & wrapped in cotton
: an elsewhere thick with smoke
& slaughter. night hours reddened
with the smell of dripping iron. what shade
of blood was the last sunset. what shade of blood
are our names, the skin that chains them.
what shade of blood are
: our own dark faces
cleaving into four. Taurean. Joe. DeEbony. Akilah.
each sound its own spiritual. calls me by the thunder.
in each other’s eyes, we see your eyes rise like water.
on our sisters, we kiss the silk hills of your cheeks, we try to hold you
when we hold our fathers, try to rock you back into breath with the newborns we clutch over shivering elbows, to smooth the curdled blood off your chests & the stray curls shocked across your foreheads to wake the sweat raise the life-smell back into your skin your too-quiet skin but no—
: what shade of blood
is this soil
(these bodies: our homes, our only)
like white magnolias
: see: same hue, same root.
i am from the southlands. & terror. i am
we say like it poured with us out our mothers’ wombs:
us & placenta & kudzu & high corn & tiger lily. & nigger.
& chasing down the splendor
of dove, doe, dark-
skinned sons & daughters whose every exhale
should be a wide bright everything—
the ritual hunts.
i am from. still. & still.
—from Poets Respond
Marissa Davis: “I wrote this poem in response to the recent shooting that occurred near Nashville, Tennessee. I grew up in a small Kentucky town not far from Nashville, and I spent four years in the city as a student. Though the motivations for this crime have yet to be identified, that this was a white man who senselessly murdered four people of color is a dynamic that cannot be ignored. Such events resonate throughout their communities because of the immense grief they cause—the stolen futures, the loved ones that cannot be seen or held or kissed or spoken to or laughed with again—but also for the fear that such an act might be repeated at any time, in any place.”