Estrada Rural_Harald Sohlberg

Lafayette #2

A common human experience is feeling our differences outweigh our similarities, amounting to the formation of groups we feel we can identify with. The formation of socio-political groups based on religion, race, social background, or class (i.e. identity politics) has become a primary feature of the modern culture wars in the United States as a method for rectifying historical wrongs and engaging with social justice — but is this way of thinking helping? “Lafayette #2” grapples with these cultural qualms and what it means to hold a particular identity amidst societal upheaval.

Cemetery dirt
is caked
onto the floor mat of my car,
the bottoms of my
sandals,
remembering
at the last moment
to try to knock it off &
remembering
that the difference
between a cemetery & a graveyard
is
whether or not the burial ground is
attached to a church.

This one is not.

It is
deep in the middle of the city,
the part called Central City,
in fact
& I have stopped
to visit silent friends
to be alone
to take photos
of something that look like buttercups but are not buttercups
&
down on my knees
in the squashy mudgrass
I realize
that the dress I grabbed
off my closet floor this morning,
because it was easy,
& because it was comfortable
is also revealing
no straps
mid thigh
—it is July, it is
hot, sunny, going to rain in a few hours by
the look of those bloated clouds,
but I know that even in the middle of the day
in the middle of the city
in a relatively small cemetery
I still have a target on my back
a female, alone, & stop! Before you say:
But wait, women, people, are not asking
to be assaulted
by the way that we’re dressed—
I agree, oh god

I agree.

But.
Am I
really the only one
who’s sometimes
secretly
happy
to be wearing something androgynous
even boylike/mannish/masculine,
every now & again

A dark street/sidewalk,
a darker stare for just
a little
too long
but you know
would be even more direct, hulking, heavy attention
wearing a dress
like I am
flowers
skirt ruffled
sundress
in the sun, obscured &
darkened by fat rainclouds
& the realization
that I have never worried about my safety
in this way
in a different city cemetery, the biggest, &
in a much whiter part of town
in a Black city
built & seasoned & loved
by Black people for generations &
on my hands and knees
I continue to dig at the roots
of the racism
that existing
as a white woman
in the American South has planted,
the black soil
that grew the cotton
mixed with blood
that no one moderate wants to talk about now
in the place where I grew up.
So
I shear the branches, yank the leaves
rip down the tendrils, dark vines
of what was planted
what has been watered,
what I allowed to grow or didn’t notice or—
or whatever. Because I am tiny in this forest of injustice.

But I have three children.
White women, they too
are growing up in the American South
but in a Black city, beautiful & full
of life &
I am working
every day
to make it easier for them to tear away
the tender shoots of racist thought, nourished by false
superiority
our society has tainted them with,
maybe I have tainted them with,
to root out
that which
hurts,
to root out that which kills
to water the gardens & orchards & wild meadows
of Black
friends & strangers alike,
to instill in them
our human duty
but also our white, Southern duty
as people who can see our history for what it was
& consciously decide
to be better. To do better.
To brave reassessing the dark forests within ourselves, born with
monster seeds that don’t have to grow.


emily mosley

Emily Mosley grew up in a small lakeside cabin in rural Georgia, but has spent the last six years in the gritty wonderland that is New Orleans. She can often be found sneaking into strangers’ yards to smell their flowers and pet their cats, and is mother to three surly but hilarious daughters. Her poetry and essays have been published by Just Place, Weasel Press, Lucky Jefferson, Georgia EMC Magazine, and in the book Psychedelic Trips for the Mind.

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