Poem June 2023

this I know for sure

We are the breath the skin the muscles the heart the hands the unmeasurable bones whispering across the Atlantic Ocean. We are the bellies of Middle Passage ships. We are the blue door of no return on Goree Island. We are the mornings that broke with our living and our dead fastened together. We are the eyes bearing witness to sharks following our human cargo waiting for the feast of dead or sick bodies tossed overboard. We are the shadows in the back of the eyes of daughters throwing themselves and their babies overboard. Our blood is the red that stole the blue of the ocean. We are scattered bones rising up from the bottom of the Atlantic revealing a pathway marking the route. We are the fruit of those bone trees planted deep in the fertile Atlantic. We carry a DNA of survival, strength, extraordinary will. From forced migration to slave market we are all the links of all the chains of the past and future. Binding spiritual links from the bones in the Atlantic to the bones of slaves in a place like Galveston Texas where ancestral whispers became the wind… Caressing tired bones with a timeless spirit of rebirth and love. The wind heard first. Whispering from the trees, from the ground beneath their feet, whispering…




The wind knew and rattled tiny bones beneath the feathers of birds. The wind knew. Giving voice to the rain falling creating fertile freedom ground. The wind whispered to every butterfly, every insect pollinating from flower to flower. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Eagles stopped in midair to listen to the wind’s song… Freedom came today. Freedom came today… And because our people are a chosen people we could understand the dance of the trees, the tremble of the water. Hoes stopped striking. Hands stopped picking. Feet stood still. A mighty storm named freedom rained over them. Soaked them clean. Mothers kissed hope into the air above babies’ heads. Grandmothers and grandfathers stretched prayers into a sky that would not bend. Men asked where will this freedom live. Children asked what does this freedom taste like. What does this freedom smell like. What does this freedom sound like.  What does this freedom look like. Mama, tell me what this freedom gonna feel like. We screamed a jubilee into the clouds. We shed the skin of a slave. We shed the rags of a slave into the river. Our freedom skin was a shining brand-new nakedness that outshined the sun. We be clothed in freedom’s gold. On Juneteenth dead bones came alive and flew on the wings of Sankofa birds all the way back to the river where blood is born… All the way back to the womb that never forgets. We are the Juneteenth resurrection… We are the ancient prayers answered. We are the cup overflowing inviting generations to this feast of freedom. 

— Jaki Shelton Green

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