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CLA JOURNAL 193 Trauerspeil: subject into non-being1 Quanda Johnson Prologue They were a sad people I can see them Living in the land of unmaking, un-belonging, unvoiced longing Swirling in their spiral of transmuted identities Where their Redemption Salvation Civilize-ation Has uncivilized them in the safe spaces their safe places Chapter One I am a child of six with red-rimmed eyes Holding the water in my mouth The water that has come up From the back of my throat and threatens to drown me Its acrid, bitter taste flavoring my mind, my thoughts As I stare into the bowl of soup Chicken Noodle In which He has crushed crackers I am told not to cry I am told not to look at Him I am told to look at the table, at the bowl to fill up the spoon to eat… 1  Simon Gikandi.“‘Popping Sorrow’: Loss and the Transformation of Servitude.” Slavery and the Culture of Taste. Princeton UP, 2011, p. 196. 194 CLA JOURNAL Quanda Johnson Before me the soggy, fleshy contents laugh Suddenly…I’m airborne Down, Down, Down I go The world whirls past me The blood red tile floor red and black meets me I hear the sound of the lash Before I feel it Hear it as it passes through the loops of His trousers and makes contact With my back, my arms, my face, my legs… Airborne again I find myself facing my bowl Hand shaking, I fill up my spoon But the water in the back of my mouth keeps rising and I Swallow, and swallow, I swallow the acrid water until I Unswallow into the bowl, into the soup Chicken Noodle With crackers crushed in it I am told to fill up the spoon my spoon And in the safety of my safe space my safe Black place 5485 Morse Street I eat my soup cold salted with my tears flavored with the contents of my stomach. CLA JOURNAL 195 Trauerspiel: subject into non-being Chapter Two Auntie laughed as she spoke – Bright, chipper laughter Masking her melancholia A transposed reality An imposed identity She spoke of the stream Of fostered children fostered by her Mother company for her She…the youngest of five Was left alone as the others grew Grew and left Fostered Children Little Black girls like herself That she could play with talk to dream with She was not to fight them – for them, this was a safe Black space -- but broken dolls misplaced books games with pieces missing She wasn’t supposed to fight them For this She was always invited to remove her clothes Take a bath and While still wet the lash came down Blistering her skin It came from nowhere and everywhere 196 CLA JOURNAL Quanda Johnson Without announcement Without warning The blood ran pink as it mixed with the water and soap left on her skin mixed with the alcohol icy cold and scalding hot That Mother Her Mother – splashed over her welts and wounds Chapter Three His Sister had twin daughters Lovely little ladies With sanguine eyes Folded gloved hands Identical clothes But not identical faces Well behaved One had a bolder spirit While the other was thoughtful…reflective They were magical; full of magic They could sit side by side Unmoving for hours If told to They could be deathly quiet The bold one wet the bed The thoughtful one never told Together they turn eyes,“heavy as anchors,” on His Sister As she ties their small wrists to their bedposts The lash is swift and sure First one twin Then the other CLA JOURNAL 197 Trauerspiel: subject into non-being In their safe space They cry for mercy But no mercy comes Chapter Four Pregnant at fifteen Statutory rape (the man was thirty) She runs to the safety of her space – her safe place Face sorrowful Full of dread Tongue-tied, she tries to explain What happened…? But a pipe Drains her of consciousness As the blood gushes forth Her Mother tries to close the head wound with her hand And is told To let it bleed Blood provokes memory Memory lingers Her Father lowers...


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pp. 193-201
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