strange roots (the digging)

deep down, i know that you can’t
take away my shine. it’s been perfected
over generations of mining. my ancestors
spent years digging through dirt
for any sign of a gem,

any treasure that can peek
through parasites. but the past
is so dirty and deep-rooted
that sometimes i am too tired
to dig for hope.

black people are born with brightness
but we’ll spend our whole lives
navigating a world of darkness.

we shine brighter as ghosts.
finding light in death, fire in heaven,
earthly riches with graves
that glow in the dark.

when you dig me under,
i hope that my casket will have
no need for a lightbulb,

because my life was full of
so much shining
that death is not a dimming,
but a false shadow.

chicago, 2008:
a young white man calls me “nigger”
as i’m walking to a concert.

“nigger” is a word meant to burn.
it’s a tool meant to put you underground
before your grave.

charleston, 2017:
an older white woman
reminds me
that, to her, I am
nothing but dirt.

here i am, again, forced to rise above
worms that are meant to
feed on my soul
and decompose my spirit.