Let Blood Go

by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

East and then south, the land is prettier,
though rough, wild. Lilac peeks
between trees like a pair of coy eyes.
Arkansas, Tennessee, finally Mississippi.
Some home feeling inside—
I’m in Negro territory.
Though there’s no cotton, nappy and overgrown,
by this long highway, there is grass.
And trees, branches twisted
like a back broken down the spine.

I should feel afraid driving through this,
day or night, but I don’t. I know this dystopia,
can name the sins of familiars here.
There’s comfort in Confederate
flag stickers, gun racks in the backs of pickups,
the coldness in the eyes of some whites,
resignation in the eyes of others,
and black folk rolling with what comes, surviving—
some are angry, but most have let blood go.

Nostalgia washes over me,
and when I stop to eat in Holly Springs,
I order fried chicken. I look the young
waitress right in her (of course) blue eyes,
wish I was a brother committing a crime,
reckless eyeballing, whistling for Emmett Till,
but this child is sweet—Yes, ma’am.
Born about sixteen years ago
with a guiltless, bare soul.

And who am I? A woman,
same as what this sweet child—
blue eyes—standing before me will become,
a woman like Emmett’s mother.
Blue eyes, this land—O Mamie, Mama, Mississippi,
bless this blood searching east and south.
And your son’s heart buried,
then unearthed from kin dirt.