Juneteenth, 2016

— Breauna L. Roach

By some stroke of mercy
I have arrived here at the end
of a quarter century—breathing.
I want to exclaim about love &
triumph & awakenings, but lagging
behind my shadow is the guilt
of having survived.

          I want to revel in how far we’ve come
          since this day in 1865, when the last of us
          finally got word we’d been free. I want
          to celebrate that every day, something has tried
          to kill me & has failed thus far—but the guilt
          of having survived is a plentiful load.

                    I want to write a poem about nature
                    not attached to violence. I want to see
                    a Black person in the streets & have
                    the luxury of taking that face for granted.
                    I don’t want each silent nod to
                    a brown stranger to mean,
                    thank God you are alive.

          I want to be able to mourn
          a tragedy and not place it against
          the backdrop of my own.

I enter most days trying to project onto the atmosphere
some me I imagine I’ll be. In the fiction, that me understands
what people do out of shame or feelings of inadequacy.

                    That me doesn’t act like everything & everyone
                    ain’t been under the rug at some point. Like this
                    country itself ain’t the muhfuckin rug.

Like you ain’t been the hand
(voluntarily) sweeping before or at least
          longed to be an extension of the arms
              in control of the hierarchy of soil
                  of determining what is dirt enough
                      for cleaning hiding disguising protecting—

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