- We Know This Place
So we know this place, for we have glanced more times than we’d like to share into eyes that stare with nothing there behind them but an unfulfilled wish and an unconscious yearning for life though death rests comfortably beside us. At night their moans are louder. They come to visit the guards at the gate, and they stay until morning torturing their guilt-ridden insides. The silent cries of the keepers are louder than the booms that come from the guns they use to occupy the space.
And we know this place, for we have seen more times than we’d like to imagine bloated cadavers floating through waters of a city gone savage, foraging the land for what can be salvaged. But what can be saved when all is lost? It happened in August, twenty-nine days in. We are now five days out of the only place we knew to call house and home. Few things are certain: one, we have no food; two, there are more bodies lying at the roadside than hot plates being distributed or first aid being administered or recognition as a citizen. Fourteenth Amendment, X, refugee, check.
And we know this place. It’s ever-changing yet forever the same: Money and power and greed, the game. [End Page 719] They suck and devour the souls of the slain. What a feast for the beast at their table of shame with napkins ’round necks that catch the blood that drains from the flesh they chew, it’s hell to gain
And we know this place, all too well, dank with the smell of death and doom. It hovers, it smothers, no growth, no room, no pretty, no please, just gray, just gloom, just borned me a hope, and it died too soon, just juckin’, just jiving, just living, we just fools. And we know this place. It’s decked in all its array and splendor, golden streets with good intentions capture our attention, gadgets and inventions pesticide the food supply, flu-like symptoms, diabetic condition, a cancer in the system held on hold, it’s a pistol to the temple. Go run to the churches, tell reverend it’s simple. Good works and good deeds is what equals redemption, but tell me, please, Jesus never mentioned, how do churchmen get extensions on freedom, while children are being fondled from the altar to the streets, then back to the sanctuaries? It’s kind of scary, ain’t it? to know that both the prophet and the priest practice deceit, then come to the people and claim peace, peace, they come to the people and they claim love, love. But where is the peace, huh?
Where is the love? Where is that Balm in Gilead that can heal the wounded soul or make the half-man whole?
I swear, we know this place, ’cuz we have vowed before never again to return, but here we are, back in the desert, dry mouth and thirsting for waters from Heaven. But come, come, children, rally ’round, and maybe together we can make a sound that will shake the trees or rattle the ground, make strong our knees, we’s-a freedom bound. And we know this place. Reclaim the crown. [End Page 720]
Hold onto the prize, never put it down. Be firm in the stance, no break, no bow, got to forward on, Mama, make your move now. Forward on, Papa, okay. make your move now. Forward, dear children, ’cuz freedom is now. [End Page 721]
Sunni Patterson is a poet, singer, and grassroots activist from New Orleans. She has been a featured performer at many of the nation’s premier spoken word venues, including HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. She has also had the privilege of speaking at the Panafest in Ghana. She has worked with many well-known artists and performers, including Hannibal Lokumbe, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Sonia Sanchez, Wanda Coleman, Amiri Baraka, and the Laini Kuumba Afrikan Dance Company.
Printed with permission of the author.