Unhinge my jaw so I might sound
like I was raised here:
among the copperheads
and tobacco fields, the families of deer
bathed in drifts of red dust rearing,
in warm spits of rain.
You keep the summers long, the sweat on my neck.
Let the sun stray behind your steep bluffs
as Orion’s belt fastens the night sky together;
let your tireless arms carry
the Lumbee who was shot in the head
and found bobbing downstream.
To free the fishhook from the dog’s jowl
is to find your blood dried on the barb.
Show me your teeth, show me
where your billy clubs left bruises
and your unmarked graves open,
where my mother was born and baptized.
Tell me, am I still a Yankee in your eyes?
I have caught your catfish and dug up your clay;
I have learned your history, reconstruction.
My mother’s blood in my blood,
and what does that make me?
Your magnolias refuse to bend for light
and your tar-heeled troops were struck dead for the south—
you plant sir and ma’am in mouths
and wait for hurricanes to strip you down
in surrender: dark waves tumbling in,
gutting homes, burying us beneath the tide-line.
Do you wake up early, do you guide the plow?
Are your hands like mine, callused
from hauling stones and chopping oak,
from labor that works lines across
the landscape of your boundless palms?
Tell me how you tear steam up off my shoulders,
how you stuck that call in the cardinal’s throat.