122: Whipping Tree

Whipping Tree by Rachel Eliza Griffiths 

        Laurel Grove Cemetery South, Savannah, Georgia, 2018

 Where are the whips & hands
 that risked their own history
 to lash lessons of blood
 upon black bodies roped
 against these simple oaks?
 The marks are too high
 to touch now, the evidence too
 grotesque to scab our wailing eyes.
 I am trying to translate a word
 that glows like a chain. It is nearly
 God. The thick trees have grown tall
 beyond their unbearable childhoods.
 In the tree, I see which way the master
 snapped his wrist, turned directions, changing
 his mind when the body didn’t scream loud
 enough, when the eyes of the slave refused
 to look away from the master she once nursed.
 Were there days he tired from bringing the whip
 across his thin freedom & did he throw his ugly work
 to another man as he walked, tenderly,
 to a house he dared to call his home?
           The south stands in the throat of a tree.
 Truth is a scraped breath between glorious
 brown limbs. How hard was it for them
 to gather their blistered family into gentle arms
 & keep singing to Jesus? I want what flesh
 they hymned. Every flap of skin crying
 & glowing red in faith.
           I can’t look away from these unbroken trees.
 I am aware that we are living in the middle
 ring of terrorism. The trouble of scars
 bleeding through new maps. The tree
 trying, alone, to survive our dead
 names in the stripped bark.

Courtesy of poet.