Two Poems
by Sasha Smith

slave catchers.

this is why you must run from the slave catchers, boy. brother, look at their lot:

chain shackle rope [clipped on skin
snagged on scabs] meet where blood is rust,
where blood is chipped flakes,
is burgundy mercury, is embossed prints of smears.
of streaks. at either sides,
the chase is here. is of a mind of current violence,
of previous torment / a slanted groove ironed out of misery, no – contempt, no –self loathing, no- a system of evil now integral in a system of good, then of tomorrow and tomorrow’s-quivers.

the chase?
the chase?
who is running like weak, bright eyed doe, like wolf wet with blood, like hounds and their digging knives, like horses, like men on their horses, like beasts in the men on their horses?


whose noose? and of that, whose rope built that noose? who twisted such fine threads, such tender sinews into the wrapping thing?
and of the chains, why loose? why loud? why a rustling aftermath, an effect of brokeness, why a reminder, the dead asks, why was one needed?
so the shackles or THEN the shackles of ore / or the metal bolts, chains of cluttered clunks –
all embedded into wrists,
handcuffs cuffing hands, wrists until flesh twists, peels, is repealed. why this?

the hunt?

the hunt?
the hunted realize the hunt is beasts in bodies on beasts: calling bodies beasts. so the rabbits are jumping - look, hopping! look, spotted, white tailed, then look!
the deer are leaping, are sprinting, look, skipping, and he,
and his feet, the soles of his feet, look how red and raw they are, look how
like meat they are: soft and smell spoiled.
boy, run. if turned a fugitive, then run.
then never stop. then let the dirt cover blisters,
cover the poked, plucked pools of dead skin pinched over.
if a runaway, then do not hesitate
not at forests, not at rivers, not at ponds. cool the feet there,
but walk anyway, then swim anyway, then dive anyway, then drown anyway.

if the slave catchers, if the slave patrol
catches you, you must hold your breath and choke anyway
choke on the taste of the air of the forts, of the castles you were chained to. choke on the smell of slave ships, of the salty water freshly springing splashing up. up. up. throwing up. choke choke on the mud pits, cement prison, then choke on the busy sounds of slave quarters, humming, chattering, choke on cesspools of others and you, an other, and another you, and others unlike you, looped in, clumped into the whole of the continent Africa, choke on the sounds of the quarters that turn to freed neighborhoods, that turn to shanty towns, to urban blocks, that turn to slums, that turn to ghettos, that turn to mine fields of minds fielding patrols, choke
choke on the taste of lead, choke choke choke on the sifting shift of asbestos knocked clean, knocked straight, cut from uncared-for walls. choke
choke on the burden of what is no longer a plantation field but society itself.

run or choke.
run or choke.
run or choke.
run and choke.

Black Breasts Beat Now

Black breasts beat now like mangos being stacked — then ripely mounted by soft hands, full and
wet, and full like mouths of sticky
sugar; molasses stuck, tipsy in malaise,

where the grains are uneasy, are crystal on busy teeth.

Black breasts beat on teeth,
and pound on padded outlines of the heart,
from the inside where the heart departs,
to the outside, where the lungs are squeezed into stiff dried meat. Then grounded, it grinds it to grain
and crystal. It picks it up then rests on her breasts
as sweat, on the back as sweat, on the fingers
as wet

Black breasts arrive beside
beating drums. Hang on them like feathers and bones, carved stone structures and wood pastures (lines
dug in to paths, channels of cheap moans,
wanting). They want like warm air wants.
They stumble like teeth stumble, like sugar grain teeth stuck to flesh stumble, like sugar cane and black backs, like black breasts stumble.

Black leaps into open hands, allows open hands to claim them, let's open hands unwind them like coils of orange peels,

like metal springs, like knotted hair
and white tongue. It washes it —
the tongue — in it. It lets the tongue discover stories, only when it is
still. Allows it to ask questions between tremors and falling branches, between the toil of limbs unraveling green thick forests.
Only when still, when perfect in stillness, when hurting and throbbing, and still.

Take them into your mouth like sugar cane and squeeze the juices out.