(Take Everything, For Lucinda, Ida Mae and the Rest of Us)
By: Jade Ariana Fair
Old hands and old lands;
They have known my name.
Women in skirts wide and clanking like church bells,
Braced over tin basins, shucking corn and cleaning yams in the sun.
Old tasks spoken in old words
On African shores
In the backyard of the house that I was raised in.
Old hands and old lands;
They have called my name
Sweat rolls steadily down her knit brows in sun so hot that it feels like the inside of someone’s mouth.
Her face in photographs was as stern as a mountain.
She told my grandmother that Kentucky comes from the Iroquois “Ken-tah-ten”
Bare foot Ida Mae taps me on shoulders in my dreams.
I wake up with words wet on my lips, spitting out salmon fat with eggs.
Land of tomorrow.
She calls to me, leaving trails for me to follow in red Kentucky dirt.
Land of tomorrow
I am the unfinished pages of my mother’s journal.
I am the high school diploma that was denied my great-grandmother.
I am her unacknowledged good grades, and the tests she had to take over and over again to prove she wasn’t cheating.
I am the rightful place she was denied in the Latin Club.
I am the stolen quills for the sixty-five million and more whose names have been lost, abandoned, or taken.
I am the ink well that illiterate hands dipped found Cardinal feathers into, knowing without having to be told that words are freedom and wordlessness makes you chattel for white men.
I am yellowed and wrinkled pages of torn bible passages, slipped from calloused hand after calloused hand at midnight in reeds.
I am the good teeth, strong back, clear eyes and naked childbearing hips that fetched a good prize at the state fair.
I am the screaming baby stolen moments after birth, dream-suckling for his mother.
Land of tomorrow.
My blood is hot sweat and pork grease and work songs.
My bones are a mortar and pestle to grind corn meal for frying.
My tongue moves quick like freshly unrecognizable feet covered in leeches from days of running in marshes.
My voice was made in dirt floor cabins, by hands dirty with pollen and pricked with thorns from cotton plants, rubbing balms and salves on the backs of children with scars caked thick and misshapen as mud pies on a playground.
My ribs are shoebox guitars played on matchstick porches, holding a heart that is not just my heart, my many hearts beating throaty voices of gospel choirs.
There is always the faintest taste of iron in the back of my throat. Blood and rust tickle my sinuses; I wake in the night smelling smoke. At first, I do not know whether the house has burned down. Then the stench of charred bodies, the burned strange fruit like Abel’s rejected offering.
Land of tomorrow. Land of tomorrow. Land of tomorrow. “Louder” she commands like an approaching siren.
“Scream. Scream like a train whistle, baby girl. Land of tomorrow. Land of tomorrow.”
“Shout it like hallelujahs at dawn” she says. “Shout it from can-see to can’t-see.”
Land of tomorrow. Land of tomorrow. Land of tomorrow. Land of tomorrow.
Mixing mud and water from dirty rivers,
I mould new mouths.
Mouths with teeth bared
Maybe grinning, maybe growling, maybe both at once, but always open.
When you deny me, it is with this mouth I speak.
Mouths red with lipstick, swollen and pursed lips
Having been beaten, or having been kissed.
Mouths full of rage sizzling like hot oil in cast iron pans, bruised and missing teeth.
When they bash me and the ones I love, I spit burning blood into the sky, raining acid stars upon their up turned, confused faces.
By the time you have seen this, it will be too late. I will eat you alive, I am not afraid to be a monster.
I dare you to forget what I have done in their names.
JADE ARIANA FAIR
Jade Ariana Fair is a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist, community healer and a conjurer of dense, celebratory worlds tinged with melancholy. Working across painting, performance, sound, and installation in Oakland, CA, Jade’s art sits at the intersection of the material and immaterial. Her performances have been featured in SOMArts 2015 “The News” series in San Francisco and Oakland’s LoBot Gallery in 2016. Her visual work was included in the “SPIRIT” group show at Oakland’s Qulture Collective. In June 2016, she debuted a solo show “Them Are Weavers” of mixed media paintings at Black Spring Coffee Company in Oakland, CA. Her collaborative performance and sound project Earthbound was profiled in the East Bay Express in September 2016. As a healing arts practitioner and arts educator, she has been invited to share her practice with youth at Bay Area Video Coalition, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, The Allied Media Conference, and Peñasco Theater Collective Youth Arts Camp in Peñasco, New Mexico. She has read her written work in the 2016 “The Hundy” Series at E.M. Wolfman General Bookstore in Oakland. She dreams of rivers and they pool at her feet. Her work can be found at www.jadearianafair.com