to the ashes of my father


there is a prayer that i heard you say.

you said, may god take your hearts and set them on fire.

we burned your body after you left.  your ashes rest on a piano in a room where we don’t let the children play.  when the buildings burn, like hearts, i think of your god who set fires.  the ashes from those fires look like you now.

would you witness the killing?  would you hear the pace of gunfire rattling?  leveling the runners.  they are trying to run.  they are bleeding instead.  our backs keep turning because we are not afraid. black backs are running because they are afraid. black backs are targets.

would you break the silence? those with voices that won’t whisper or yell.  the squandered spotlight under which they stand like statues.  i don’t understand how to be silent or how to speak.  you always knew the words. you spoke in sermons. and sometimes we listened.  sometimes we heard you.  i can still hear you. can they?

would you call out your people? would you point from pulpit to passivity and name it?  it would be a song if you did.  it would start with a crashing cymbal and crack empty cathedrals.  your voice would be a canister bouncing off the walls.  filling the chapel like gas.

and someone would say Amen.  only it’s not enough to ‘let it be’.

would you march? they are dancing in the streets.  they are crying and singing and dancing.  bodies bending, backs arching, sweat and tears and arms raised.  i am dizzy from spinning bodies.  but i can feel my pulse match the drums.  would you dance with me?

your children go on living and closing their eyes and sighing.  i breath on command because i can.  you took your last breath on the floor, alone.  when your heart stopped marching and your body lay still, i imagine hope slipped quietly from your lips like a prayer.  i can always hear it, singing in my mind.  i wish i still prayed.

i wish you were here.

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