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The Ankh


I dreamed about you last night. I heard your voice call out to me and almost...beckon me to follow, so I did. I followed the echo of your voice to a beach, but when I arrived you were not there. 
No one was there.
The only thing in front of me was a vast ocean that seemed to stretch far beyond the strands of time.
I stood there waiting as the waves crashed near my feet.
I listened for your voice to guide me again but this time I heard nothing, so I began to walk to the water. I let it wash over my feet and stood there, ankle deep, looking out on the horizon. I had the urge to wade deeper in, but before I could act on it, I felt your hand grasp my shoulder.  When I turned to face you, you looked me in my eyes for a moment before pointing to the shore and saying
“Your work is there. This is the land of the dead.”
And then I woke up.

How do I begin to seek you?
I can’t touch you. I can’t see you. But I can feel you.
I feel you in every corner and crevice of this place, I feel you in myself. There’s no escaping it.
I feel you.
But I feel the weight too.
Most days I feel like I’m drowning in it,
The weight of this history
The weight of this blood
The weight of their sins.
How can I move freely on this land? Breathe the air that they breathed? Sit where they sat?
I am constantly walking beneath the glare of the legacy of your oppressors.
Of my oppressors.
I’m bombarded with the daily reminder of their shamelessness.
Of what they did to you.
You, Eliza, mother of Thomas,
You, Mamie, mother of George,
You, Iola May, mother of Catherine,
You, Catherine mother of Marica,
My mother.
You are all my mother,
Named and unnamed,
Known and unknown,
You are all my mother and when I walk through this land I carry both your blessing and your burden. 
I’m trying to tell your story, but the deeper I go the more I feel as if there’s a fog that’s been cast over my eyes.
Show me how to seek you mother,
Teach me how to see you,
Where are you? 
Do you walk beside me, existing in this space between memory and dream?
This space between seen and felt?
Where are you?
Are you in the grass?
The leaves?
The sunset?
A breeze?
Are you in these buildings? The pillars of their wealth?
Does your back still break from its weight?
Are you sleeping?
Can your bones rest beneath this earth?
Have you found peace?
Are you at peace?
Or do you linger in this land?
Were they your tears that watered the roots of these trees?
Is it your blood that soaks this land beneath my feet?
Is it your voice that howls in the wind?
It was your shoulders that bore the weight of their barbarity
How do I forgive them for what they’ve done?
How do I forgive them for what they’ve become,
Mother they have forgotten you and built tributes to these devils,
These men who raped and murdered
And broke
And broke
And broke
And broke
But the soil has not forgotten.
The earth has not forgotten. The trees have not forgotten the crimes committed against you.
They remember.
Their branches are eyes that extend beyond the years of my birth,
Their longevity stands testament to the fact that you lived as a human being.
They vibrate with your presence, I feel you in these trees. They sing your song.
And so shall I.
Mother, my voice shall be your voice,
This tongue will speak your truth,
And I will carry you as I walk through this land.

Oh creator,
Lift my spirit and give wings to my voice so that I may sing the song of my mother.

Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond '19