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.
by Mariama J. Lockington
i google: can dogs eat watermelon? google says: yes, but not the seeds 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 lines 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.