America in Verse
America in Verse

Muscle Memory

When Adversity is Inscribed in Your Bones

Muscle Memory

Supremacists, nationalists, history advocates—

they march because they say they will not let their place in history be forgotten.

their history be replaced.

their race be erased.

But who can forget the history and place of them in American history?

Who will forget the decimation of the indigenous peoples?

the "taming" and claiming of the West

The savage red skinned menace against the Belle of the South, the cowboy hero

Before the oncoming violent horde?

Who will forget the plantations of black bodies baking in the hot southern sun as slave owners stood by

Sipping tea with one hand whip ready in another

Symbol of graceful civilization?

Who will forget the railroads being built with the blood and sweat of minorities

and immigrants,

while American business tycoons raked in the profits

And wrote in newspapers

How they were building this country up

With their own two hands?

Who will forget the resistance to Integration,

who will forget the stories handed down to us by our grandparents

and mothers

and fathers,

of the KKK rallies, the Sundown Towns?

Of white robes and torches

While others were afraid of cemetery ghosts

We faced down monsters that were very much

Alive.

Who will forget the sites of hanging trees,

the lynchings,

the young black men dragged through the streets?

But by the logic of historical preservation

The trees should still wear their nooses

So proud heritages

Can go and kneel at their blood soaked roots

And remember

The good old days.

Who will forget

the burning crosses in the yards of black neighborhoods?

The broken windows and fear

Of whether or not the morning would come

With you as a man

Or corpse.

Who will forget

Montgomery

and Birmingham?

Who will forget the police raids

and beatings in the streets?

The batons that still sit in antique stores

That make you wonder

If you’ll feel scalp still melded

Into the hard cold plastic

Who will forget

the Whites Only signs in store front windows?

The shame of back alley scraps

And lowered fountains

That made you bend

Just for water

Who will forget

the Holocaust,

the Jews

and gays

and communists

dissidents

and innocents

shot and buried and burned alive

in the name of the Aryan race

and its history?

Who will forget

the forced sterilization

and eugenics programs here at home

by our court systems,

our laws,

against minorities and the poor

in order

to "purify" our country and never let another

"imbecile" ruin the bloodline?

Who will forget

Chavez

and X

and King

and the leaders forced to take a stand

against the oppression of an entire people?

Who will forget

the changing of laws

to allow interracial marriage,

to allow ownership of property

and guns

and homes to people of color?

The BBB and Fair Housing logos

Slapped on residential offices

To remind you

That they won’t call you

nigger

Or spic

When you’re signing the lease—

At least not anymore.

Who will forget

Dixiecrats

and assassinations

and the push to counteract the tyranny of oppression?

Laws that were necessary

To secure basic human rights

Because the amendments

Needed amendments

To say yes, actually

Those are people too.

You say the statues

are all you have to remember your history, but how can you be forgotten,

and replaced,

when the scars of your power

and privilege

and history

lay deep in my bones?

Bending my spine

Deep in my blood

Genetic nightmares of how close I came

To not being here to say this

Because

How can I forget you

in the stories of my mother

and father

being driven from their home,

with me in her arms,

as garbage cans are lobbed at us,

and our dog is tortured

through the gate with a sharpened stick?

To summon the police

Who, in the arms of my mother,

Were not there to save me

To cradle me

But to clean the street

Of our very feet

How can I forget

with the eyes of employees

watching my hands

and feet

and eyes

in the stores I choose to frequent?

Where even filling a cheap shit foam cup

Is tantamount to high larceny

Because my skin brands me

As someone who may not have the few coins to rub together

To drink this vile thing.

How can I forget

the fear

of having men rush my car,

cheering and hollering at me

that they have finally won?

When I never knew

They had ever started losing.

How can we forget

our dead brothers and sisters

and strangers

and the hanged

and the drowned

and the choked

and the bullet riddled

and and exiled

and the murdered

and the beaten,

And the unborn

No not abortions

But the dark bodies that never breathed Because lesser bloodlines

Were aborted with rope

And ovens

And guns

And court orders

And never even made it to the hospitals

To become someone's gaping heartache

And this is all

Unforgettable indelible proof remnants and memories of your presence

You say you only fight

to be remembered.

To have your voice heard

History preserved

Homeland secured

But my God.

How

Can

I

Ever

forget?

social commentaryslam poetry
Read next: I Am A Bullet.
Jose Juarez

I'm a poet, a philosopher, a dissident, a Native, a storyteller and a contemplative mess. 

See all posts by Jose Juarez