700: Juneteenth, 2020

700: Juneteenth, 2020

700: Juneteenth, 2020


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

It’s only recently that the importance of Juneteenth in the history of the United States has gained the widespread recognition it deserves. A name that combines the month of June and the date of the nineteenth, Juneteenth marks the day in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when Texas was placed under US Military Control, proclaiming an end to slavery in the District of Texas.

These days, it seems like every politician and university and company is quick to celebrate Juneteenth following the holiday’s federal recognition. And I could make some cynical comment about understanding its meaning before appropriating the day, but you know what…I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to be cynical, instead I am going to be grateful. Grateful that people are finally recognizing the importance of Juneteenth and the deep meaning it has as the United States reckons with its history.

Right now, nothing feels easy and everyone I know is grappling with so much, but I hope we can all find some moments to celebrate our own lives, our own ways of being free.

Today’s exquisite poem honors Juneteenth by finding little rebellions of joy. I love this poem because the speaker allows pleasure to seep into her bones on a day heavy with grief.

Juneteenth, 2020
by Mariama J. Lockington

i google: can dogs eat watermelon? 
                 google says: yes, but not the 
                 or the rind 

                 just the flesh 

i am on the front porch 
                 ignoring my email 
          soaking up sun & picking the
             aphids off my Brandywines 

my dog, Henry follows me around 
       looking up at the bowl of sliced 
                    melon in my hands 
    wondering if i’m going to give 
                 him some already 

    i pick a collection of milky white 
               seeds off of a fat piece 
              with my fork 
i hold my palm out to him 
              the cold red fruit bruised with 
              ripeness puddles juice along my love 

Henry lunges, slurps 
              & then it’s gone 
into the dark day of his little belly 
              his tail waving 
like a wing through the humid air. 

i would cry— there is so much 
              grief today & always 
 how even now, a haint riddled with bullets
           has perched herself on my stoop 
              to warn of all the little deaths 
                              headed my way. 

But a joy so thick 
              cracks into my throat
as I watch Henry roll over, legs & belly up 
growling with satisfaction. 

i google: is my dog a vegan at heart? 
               google says: probably not. dogs are carnivores. 

i google: how much is too much watermelon? 
               google says: for a human— 4+ cups, 
               for a dog— all in moderation. 

Henry is begging for another chunk, so 
               i let him lick my sticky palm
when he’s done, i stab my fork into the bowl 
                                               take my own bites 
                                               swimming with seeds 

i google: is this freedom? 
               google says: take it. it’s yours, for now. 

i google: what will grow from my belly if i eat too many 
               seeds? the haint says: pleasure. 

Henry yawns & flops onto his 
               porch cot 

the sun shivers gold 
               down my spine 

i stand over my Brandywines, 
               my butterfly bushes, my 
sage, lavender, mint. all fragrant with Kentucky earth
                          & i lift the bowl to my 
                      mouth i drink what’s left

"Juneteenth, 2020" by Mariama J. Lockington. Used by permission of the poet.