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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Survival


My family taught me everything
I know about survival
What they didn’t tell me they showed me
The rest was passed down in the blood

And I’m a good student
I learned all the rules
All the cues all the strategies
Became expert at overcoming obstacles
jumping hurdles large and small

My father broke the national record
For jumping hurdles at 18
Walked through countless doors
Slammed in his face disrespected
Rules of place and race

I broke the record
For suicide runs @ ten
Maybe it was those
Gangs of ousting kids
Every day after school
Nigger pocahontas mutt
I learned early how to run
Not stop to ask, “what?”

And
I learned early that sometimes
You have to walk the long way home
The wrong way home
To avoid the wrong people

Sometimes you have to walk alone

Trudge on train tracks
Mud-filled dirt paths
Sometimes you have to push
Through a crowd
Whisper when all around you are loud
Shout when they tell you
You should be praying

All my life I’ve been
Name-called, chased, and attacked
For being red, for being mixed, for being black
And I’ve had men misname me
Put their hands on me/try to unravel me
Because the combination of
My vagina my daring and my brains
Pissed off and threatened them

And I’ve had homophobes
Turn their backs on me
Although we shared the same skin
And I’ve had people of lighter
Hues resent my gains
Stick out their foot to trip me
So I wouldn’t win

I’ve been found wanting in so many ways

I have had heart attacks and strokes
Been paralyzed and broke
After doctors denied me medicine
Telling me ‘Don’t worry
About your test results, HON”

Young women don’t get heart disease

It was a joke to them
And when I almost died
It was my fault they said
I must have had a toke, snuffed some coke
You know cause that’s what we do

And I’ve been stopped
By the police again and again and again
So they could show off
Their powerful nexus of
Guns and badges and white skin
Just to terrify me

Lucky for me
My ancestors taught me
Everything I needed to know
About persistence resistance
Getting ovah and carrying on

So don’t tell me I’m strong
Don’t call my life has been a tragedy
Don’t say you are
Impressed with me
For surviving

My ancestors were slaves
My ancestors were kept in chains
My ancestors survived the theft of their land
The theft even of bones, of graves

My ancestors watched their babes
Thrown overboard/sold away
Survived generations of torture
Back-breaking labor and rape

My ancestors were kidnapped
Removed, detribalized, brutalized
Relocated, terminated and renamed


And they are the only reason I am alive
They taught me
Everything I know
About how to survive

So don’t congratulate me
For surviving racism sexism
Homophobia heart disease
And police brutality

I owe my tenacity to my ancestor’s legacies

I would dishonor them
Their struggles their triumphs
Their travails

If I let anyone change me break me
Just because they hate me
Kill me
Because of what I am
Who and where I come from

I come from a long line
Of people
Who knew how to survive
And I’m a good student
I learned to recognize all
The warning signs
I learned when to whisper
And when to shout
And I’m not going to let them down


I am the child that peopled
Their dreams
When they looked into
Their mind’s eye and tried to
Imagine a better time

So no my life is not a tragedy
And it doesn’t matter
What anyone does to me
Because I was brought forth
With blood and tears and sweat
And an insane belief in possibilities

My life is a victory
How could it not be
When my ancestors lived so
That I could be
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