South Side Diaspora
From the looped coffles
Dangling from the roof of the bus;
The cuffs’ metal jangles
Clank harmoniously in tandem,
Feet shuffle a rat a tat
As empty fingers fumble for a baseline
That isn’t there;
Our bodies, compact
With other black bodies,
Adrift, on course to the Loop
Where we disperse into black diaspora
Of the North and West.
A woman bites, crisp, an apple,
As the man next to her snivels and spits
Out the open window —
It catches on the glass;
We watch its web stretch with the wind.
This is our freedom:
The crash of teeth
Against raw skin;
The puckered promise
Of a hocked loogie.
Do you hear Kendrick
Bellowing from inside
That there boy’s headphones?
Stuck inside the belly of the beast!
Can you please pray for me?
This metal whale grinds and screeches
It bellows and groans as we tickle his ribs with our feet.
We are Jonah, plunged into darkness;
We are Tashtego, drowning;
We are swelling, sweltering strange fruit ripening
Among the spit-capillaries that line the windows.
A flood is coming,
Load this, our ark, with bodies
He has not yet marveled at —
Forsaken, we are
Get God on the phone!
Said it won’t be long —
Seven days from now
I will send rain on the earth
For forty days and forty nights,
And I will wipe from the face of the earth
Every living creature I have made.
Are we the children of the saved?
Or the bodies yet to be washed away?
Shall the lake turn black
As our water-logged skin?
Vigilante Africano steers silently,
Thirty-nine dead, upon arrival.
Where will the lake start
And the South Side end?
We sit, awaiting a judgment that will not come.
— Sara Hughes