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you are Leaving

you are a Generation of Leaving

you are a People of Leaving


you are black boy leaving

you are black boy snatched,

you are dragged down dirt, down dust, down the shells of boats,

down sea, down ocean, down under water. Leaving.


you are black boy pulled

out black wombs, you are black wombs pulled

out black women, you are black women pulled

from black men, you are black men pushed

back into black wombs, you are black wombs

pushed back into black women, you are black women

pushed back nowhere.


you are of the seeds of leaving,

of the roots, the stems still stuck in

dirt (that’s freedom). the dirt is still stuck in you.


you are Leaving

you are a Generation of Leaving

you are a People of Leaving


you are christian not christian black babies crying

you are suckling strange nipples, weeping into strange breasts,

you are confusing mothering with mother, you are confusing mother with home.


you are some new named bambi baby

some fat lipped, yellow skin heathen baby

some blue black leather fleshed evil baby

some mocha brown churned under sky, tan baby

some sweet, sweet sugar dirt sweet baby

you are somebody’s baby.


baby, somebody forgot you

somebody dumped you into the sea. somebody left you on the beach side.

somebody wrapped you in wool sheets and hung you up on a tree,

somebody didn’t come back for you, somebody left you,

or you left somebody, you left all bodies

abandoned, you left all bodies abandoned


you are Leaving

you are a Generation of Leaving

you are a People of Leaving


you forgot you.

you left you behind like trash, like black-black trash,

like soreness, like soul drenched in sores trash,

like you ain’t got no history, no story, no past, no family, no ancestor.

you are black bodies leaving ships, you are black bodies tripping in fat grease,

you are black bodies behind gates, you are black bodies on podiums, you are black

bodies at auction, you are black man black woman,

sturdy like ox, strong, tall, you are good for bearing, you are good for breeding,

you are good for work, there is coal burning in you, you are good for work.


you are open arms reaching, you are both

the baby pulled away from mother and the mother pulled away from baby,

you are shacks of crying orphans, you are barren mammy mixing food with misplaced

love together, together dipping the bread into the mix, and soaking, sopping it up

like there is no other hunger but motherhood.


you are black men passing, you are black men breeding,

you are black men trekking to black women,

you are owning the black bodies at night, sweating between black thighs, calling them home

you are taking the souls of black bodies between lips, between teeth, you are taking,

you are swallowing the souls, you are accepting the orphan into your womb, you are leaving

yourself in yourself, you are both selves, leaving themselves.

you are travelers travelling between plantations, planting

seeds, you are watching seeds swell, you are watching stems grow,

you are watching the Leaving of your seeds, the taking of your fruits,

you are black fathers, black mothers, with no black children, you are black

boys, black girls, with no black roots, you are rootless, you are fruitless,

your milk is sitting spoiled in your breasts, you are spoiled milk, you are

the fermentation of loss.


you are Leaving

you are a Generation of Leaving

you are a People of Leaving


you are missing. you are missing black fathers,

you are missing black daughters, you are missing black sons,

you got hung. you got hung. you got wrung down to alabaster bone.


we are still missing you. we are still missing you.

we are waiting for you, we’ve been waiting for you,

we’ve been missing you. we got milk for you. we got food to feed you.

we got songs to sing to you. we got hugs to give you.

we got your soul back ready for you. we got your momma waiting for you.

we got your daddy calling you. we got your baby looking just like you,

smiling just like you, crying just like you,

missing you, just like you miss you.


we lost you by the railroad, we lost you by the road, we lost you in the field,

we lost you in war, we lost you on the run, we lost you on the ship. we left you,

we left villages in chains, we left you in the village to be taken.

we left home on boats, we dragged you into cages, then packed you in boxes.

we left babies with the dead, we left babies when told,

we left women to work the field, we left the field, we left home, we left families.


we are a People of Leaving

we are a Generation of Leaving

we are Leaving.


Original poem by Sasha Smith, inspired by Toni Morrison’s Beloved.


Sasha Smith is a Jamaican-American Bronxite poet and a Cornell MFA graduate that currently lives in Ithaca, NY.  She is a recipient of the 2016 Poetry Project’s Emerge-Surface-Be Fellowship and her poems are forthcoming or published in Black Warrior ReviewThe Southampton ReviewThe Columbia Journal and Poet’s Country. You can learn more about her work and social media handles at http://stesseract.com.
Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash
Find Anne C. Bailey's non-fiction book : The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History on Amazon.

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