Emancipating Ancestors
Sunday, 17 October 2021 10:21

Emancipating Ancestors

Published in Poetry

Emancipating Ancestors
for all those who died on slave plantations

by Jenny Mitchell

I’ll free them all
by digging deep enough
to haul their battered bodies
from the years of disturbed soil.

As they emerge – some dark, some light –
I’ll gather every part:
the shattered bones
and ancient clothes,

the smell of monthly blood
I’m sure still flows
when women young
enough to breed are killed.

I’ll stroke their wasted skin
so like my own,
and cradle every one –
my arms that wide, that strong.

The love I have for them
will be a nursery rhyme
with hushing sounds,
and promises of home.

I’ll pull out all the leaves
lodged in their throats,
replace them with my words
to let them speak.

Or if repulsed by that well-meaning force,
they’re free to push my hand away.
I’ll understand the leaves
help ground lost voices.

Then I will sit a child again,
to breathe their wisdom and their weakness –
all the same if I dare open like a grave,
allowing them to seep so deep inside,
I’ll be reborn.

from Her Lost Language (Indigo Dreams Publishers)