Disturbing Blacks in Custody
Tuesday, 16 July 2024 12:54

Disturbing Blacks in Custody

Published in Poetry

Disturbing Blacks in Custody

by Jenny Mitchell

One by one, I free them from the cells,
trudging back to pick up bodies in torn clothes,
placed screaming in handcuffs, enslaved
for raving at dark clouds, black
a constant threat, beaten by new masters in blue-
bruised uniforms till every breath dies down.

They’re carried gently in my arms, hardly
any weight at all as if the spirit once disturbed –
crying out for God, arms waving in the street –
was lightened when they called for Help!
in the prison cell, or failed to breathe
that word, arm clamped across their throats.

I lay the bodies on the ground in a careful row
even when it rains so they can be baptised
before the soil becomes a shroud. We’ll pray
for those who lived close to the edge, tipped
over by their nights in jail, not helped
to stand, unbalanced by the past.

It flowed inside their blood, wrists clamped
in chains abroad slave ships, crying out
for women raped by overseers in high cane,
made to hold that pain for generations. If only
we could see ourselves reflected in each face,
know there’s no such thing as lawful death.