Blue Mountain Arts
Blue Mountain Arts
Blue Mountain Arts

Poetry Contest Winners :: Thirty-first Contest :: Second Place Winner

By These Stripes

by Charity Smith
Most days I feel like I’m wearing my skin too loudly
Like my melanin is crying tribal calls
like my curls are singing negro spirituals
my feet stomp with the rhythm of talking drums

They say I have an angry walk
I wonder if my steps are the salty puddles of those who walked the trail of tears
Maybe my stride is filled with the lacerations the whips made in my ancestors’ skin

Some wounds never heal
leaving scabbed maps of the places they tried to get to
An epidermal essay of the freedom they failed to grasp
A surface reminder of the railroads underground

I’ve been told my voice carries
they push and prod as if my words
carry the weight of written speeches never spoken
yet even after asking my opinion they only hear three-fifths of it

When I speak I feel like I have to speak on behalf of black America
Proclaiming emancipation from false pretenses placed on us by past prejudices
We’ve waded in troubled water for far too long

And when I’m silent I feel like I’ve silenced the native blood in my veins
The doctors say my veins are hard to find
Something like Native American history in high school textbooks
They search my hands and feet to draw blood there is none it’s been spilled into the heart of America

The Trail of Tears is a bleached rinsed truth
The Trail of Tears is a river of blood
Hidden in museums walls
Dammed and damn forgotten

They tell me I talk with my hands
I just want my words to be tangible so I lift my weak limbs as southern trees do their branches my arms collapse as if strange fruit hung from them

Sometimes they say they like my hair touching the soft coiled locks softer than the cotton my predecessors toiled over
they run their hands through my hair like African slaves to freedom
I let my curls live free because my ancestors never did

My ancestors
The Native Americans in books look like ghosts of something my soul knows but my eyes don’t recognize
their red-skinned pride stripped from them
made stripes of a flag that’s not their own
my skin screams African-American deafening the cries of the Iroquois

Most days I feel like I’m wearing my skin too loudly
Like a spoiled screaming child in a grocery store tugging at a mother’s clothes
Sometimes, my skin feels like a burden

But it speaks truth like a hot blooded pastor in a sweated-out suit trying to wake a congregation from a sinful sleep
So if my skin changes lives or moves mountains then the burden it bears is one I am willing to carry.

To watch a video of the author performing the poem, please follow this link
First Place WinnerThird Place Winner
Blue Mountain Arts