On Breaking and Entering, and Being Free
A poem for my aunty
You picked me up from school in time to chase the tail of twilight as it gave way to ancient spirituals written by the fire in the sky.
In the distant end of the city somebody said it looked like rain, and from the street, hushed horns and overworked sighs underscored our anarchy.
The grass made light of its blades formed from “No Trespassing” signs and the “No Trespassing” signs just made small talk.
I looked at you, part moon and part woman.
I watched as you made breaking the rules look like law.
I knew then that I never wanted to do things their way again, and inside I praised every part of you for giving me permission to wake up.
How do you teach freedom?
There are no books on hopping fences, or what committing yourself to truth feels like, or singing out loud in a world full of people with their fingers to their lips, or standing proudly naked in the face of the bashful.
There is no text that tells us about talking back when it’s right, and screaming at the face of a monster who wields a baton and singles you out. There is no manual on outrunning.
Or standing your ground.
But there are scribes. And you are mine.
When they came to clip my wings you shouted, “Run.”
When my body felt too immense and ugly for a place that wants women to remain invisibly small, you took me skinny-dipping.
When I leveraged my legs, my vocal chords, my sanity, and my level-headed facade for justice and the very freedom you taught me to value, you were my loving and accepting mirror.
You showed everybody how to really dance.
And always the words, that seeped out of me, begging for years to see the daylight like sap bleeding out of the stoic bark that had kept it contained for too long,
You told them it was ok to fly, and time to be heard.
Life is one of two things: it’s bars in mocking rows with their tongues out,
Or, it’s the crowbar you wield with a tribe of souls you met in the lost and found with their dukes up and their hearts open who vow to break through every gate that keeps the stars out.
I remember much less of what lay on the other side of those bars;
The moss in the emptied fountain, the sprawl of trees they scolded me years later for climbing; the drowsy ponds they made for slow-walking visitors, the flowers with all of their restraint.
What stays with me, what grew into my bones and replaced my blood, was that first denial of a prison somebody else made for us.
The press of steel kissing my undeveloped hip bone, the slight bruising on my shins I wished would scar into a tattoo of redemption for whenever the air felt too thick,
The leap in my stomach as my body stood halfway between the captive and the radical.
And above all, the way your hand felt as we stood surveying the moon-bathed expanse of lawn, laughing so loudly we shook the Earth and stopped time.
Eons from now when we are frolicking in stardust that once seemed so far away, the sky will boast a constellation in your form, a sacred fresco to all beings on Earth.
They will study the story of the supplemental stars, they will be exonerated in the light, their chanting by the summer bonfires will be an echo of your laugh, they will live according to the brightest points of the dancing figure,
And they will be free.