by Ray Manley

She had a halo made of embroidered haiku;
Majestic, holy, deeply rooted in Kente cloth, and a broken, dispossessed native tongue... 
She speaks Swahili, but only when she feels the sun swell 
beneath her melanin, and make her feel at home./
Saijiki, Botswana, and Kigo cradling her tongue; 
Says the unclear Bantu ethnologue helps her write her poems...
...I told her I hated haiku. Said I felt there is no lazier form of poetry,
Then she replied back, laced-acid over shotgun shell:
"My mother tongue is too intangible for a mouth like yours to hold;
Our haiku has high-stepped over more decomposing corpses than your eyes have beheld.
I'll recite one for you"...said:
"The Congo basin had
It's name changed from Zaire When The
Bodies Snow-Angeled too Black."
Told me that death tastes a little heavier when it lingers in the air where you live,
That my being American was a gift to be cherished.
That the corpses my country has created and buried were likely rendered lifeless 
and carteled to cemeteries outside my line of sight;
Told me she's seen countless men slaughtered before her very eyes.
That the prayers contained within 3 lines of African Haiku 
are often more profound than the entire 3 minute poems of spoken word artists...her words...
Thickly accented with the lilting of a mother tongue she has been dying to rid herself of.
Men have accosted her.
Inject smoke in her blood, insult her speaking....
I said "I'd love to write you a haiku".
She told me to write two...I said:
"If my back housed wings.. 
I would fly you someplace safe... 
Someplace not like home."
"I appreciate 
The light in your haiku poems... 
I apologize... Love."
However...I must address your comment about the corpses.
In this country: Our bludgeoned, blood-stained black men are still walking.
My haiku would mimic the mindset of a million living martyrs
Before having their necks snapped by nooses like stalks during harvest...
I have always wondered if rope was twone brown to convince us that our genocide was SUICIDE,
Or that their pistols, glinting the empty of so many southern midnights, were so black 
When we pray for mercy from death we never knew was at our door 
we still don't question why our psalms are swallowed like black holes digesting beams of light.
Our haiku...sounds like silence.
Sounds like darkness unfolding itself.
Our haiku sounds like:
"Deep breaths, steps, turned heads
Muffled recordings, bang, drops dead; 
Drops tea can, and skittle-bags."
Our haiku cannot be held in the everything of these mouths, 
bearing the genetic traits of plantation runaways with dessicated tongues.
My jaw has never fastened stiff enough to contain 3 lines of burial plot, 
nor 17 syllables of tombstone.
We are the same, you and I...we just wear two separate halos.
And every day I grow older, I grow more hopeful mine won't cradle willow like a wayward child,
Then soil the leaves with my sacrifice;
That it will not crown the hollow point, designated since birth, 
to swim into the silk of my spine,
And tear every fragment of tenderness, compassion, love, and loyalty out...
I'm hoping you and I both last long enough to be properly eulogized.
"She was a lover." 
"He was a friend" 
"She was a poet" 
"He was her eyes",
"They are a mirror... 
Framed too beautiful, too boldly, & too black...to ever fit...within 3 lines."

Haiku by Ray Manley

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