whipping girl

Down a sandy lane that once bled pain
I walk with eyes open, head down
Shuffling along with invisible shackles like those of my family so long ago…bound to the land, bound to blood,
Freed in name only…

a trip to the south and she sought her past
in plantation bricks and the brisk rustle of palmetto groves
whispered rumors in the shadows between vision and memory
opened the pages of the violent past
men, chattle, chattle, men
and scenes of a nation’s sins pressed upon her eyes:

time scales time in the sudden manacles of lash,
traces of whimper –
attenuations to the air and ear
haunt the clay arches of hovels entrenched in hemp and straw
speckled as derelict fields now dotted with sprigs of indigo, and
gridlocked lines of remnant cane once plowed by calloused heel, and
the sweat of hands, obscured in elements of years
to distant hollow moans in the thicket
that trick the sense to life in the cathedral darkness,
wavering ransoms for the flesh
confused with memory and the sand, and leaves, and sun that stings
the summer stillness of the island

booms and whispers bounce while tea is sipped
slowly, faceless figures fade in tapestry background
the shackle slits calloused skin and bites
flesh that time wears
heat rises with deafening radiance, field
stretches with backs bent in prayer, tomorrow hopeless, and
hangs itself with hands bound

round the smooth white curves of a cup,
brim burnished long and lean
ivory lips on talismans lost
the un-delved island earth,
long-staid confidantes of worm and acanthus root,
long-unleashed waste of chant and spell spit
spun forth in the willowed night,
the fester of guilt that cowers
in the bowered shade of trellised vine
and coral wreathed like withies across her conscience,
memory stretched in ligature
allotment to span epoch and age from taste to taste of the warm
press of orange and apple blossom to the tongue

shell of a memory and stones
lead on toward a bonny youth,
crimson as a newborn birthed to a sultry air
with fog and fig festering rot
she spies him there, man made god shriveled
in endless to and fro he sits in quiet rage,
revered in ritual like a madman biding his time and ebony soft
prickled spine undone like shards of wood sticking
fiercely from sullen still water, he bends, broken,
his ache his prayer, his daughter stretched in endless field of hot
earth made mud with sweat and sucking of feet, entrapped,
engulfed, entwined in endless murmur

smart of skin no match for the tombs of thought,
image melds image into retribution
raw and unkempt like clouds
tricks of spittle curling round corners of lips that gurgle teeth, and
clench foam and breath under labor and lash, mouths that spew
tomes of revenge and curses unrecalled
as the sea reshapes the contours of the shore
with the rainy season and with the long parched patch
now arid and unrelenting in its press,
skin and bone mere shadows of the maddened labyrinths of soul
and psyche that torture more than white hands
cutting contrast to the young man whose silence breeds bitter
ire against a back half-gnarled
as tight-rooted clods of earth layering the banks of a stream,
sharply knit and open to the rain

rain, so elusive — so false — a baptism of fear
eclipsed by bleeding earth
the anointed and beaten brows beget
their sons of the soil, dotted with devices so foul,
forlorn and worn and without measure drown with choking reality…
the skeleton leans on itself, and her mind releases
she sees the mud laid bare to lies.
splintered spine speaks softly, slips through time
and out of mind, and her soul faces the rain,
a cure of epoch, a cleansing of the earth,
the south, the sun, whose eye laid rest to her father and

smiled on her daughter regretless

By: Don Fette and Emily Hanser

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