“poem for my people” by Edythe Rodriguez

after “For My People” by Margaret Walker
my people stew
in swallowing dutch
pots, pots whose
bottoms char as we gray.
my people blend culantro
ak zonyon con ají dulce
to smother the lamb.
they fry plantain, press
it flat, fry again. give
the rice a thorough
washing, the hurricane
of cloudy starch circling
the drain. my people pour
steaming gravy in the middle
of stretched palms. this way,
it does not burn.
my people call out
names and the (not)
dead respond. shroud
our bodies in white
for the ceremony, like
a wedding of drums
and conjure. they spill
libation into the green
ery, thin the veil
between this world
and that, open their
ready mouths and let
a soul dive in. my people
talk to their people, leave
them cowry and offering,
soak in the direction
of elders. the water
falls and falls.
my people build shit
with their hands. unweed
each new land they arrive
in. carry seed from country
to sprouting country
like a souvenir. home is where
the soil remembers you.
my people lift empires
from the dirt, the cotton
pricking their worked
fingers, leeching blood
to feed the worms.
my people see me coming
and nod. or smile. or ask
what I use in my hair
and I tell them. or ask
who did my marley twists
and I tell them. or stare
real hard and ask
if I’m related to Mike
who live right off Wayne
and the answer is always
yes. cause my people know
me when they see me.
my people be dressin.
gold drips from necks
and teeth. yesterday, their
hair stood and stretched
in a yawn towards God.
today, the straightbacks
lay across my altar of
a scalp, neatly measured
rows of corn and cane.
the promise of a fresh
line sits brothers in the
shop all day, even though
the cut only takes 20 mins.
fresh white ones and throw
back jerseys. five syllable
nameplates and ten inch
doorknockers. Yankee fitteds
and bubblegum nails tapered
to stiletto points. my
people leave the house
and necks turn, snapping.
Edythe Rodriguez is based in Philadelphia, US, and is the recipient of fellowships from The Watering Hole and Brooklyn Poets. She was named a finalist in the 2021 Pink Poetry Prize. Her work is published or forthcoming in Obsidian, Cream City Review, Call and Response Journal and Bayou Magazine.

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