This poem is my reaction to a New York Times audio series called Project 1619 that I listened to about 2 weeks ago. Episode 1 was about the first group of people stolen from their homelands and brought to North America as slaves.
As a white person who is now 6 generations down the line from the Europeans who colonised Australia, I am no stranger to the harms done by hands like mine. And, make no mistake – the early Australian economy was also based on the forced labour of convicts and in later years, by slavery. But I digress.
The story of slavery in America, and its repercussions, needs to be told and understood until we learn. And whilst it makes me despair that there are humans who need to be convinced of the humanity of other humans, the work still needs to be done.
You can find Episode 1 of Project 1619 here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/23/podcasts/1619-slavery-anniversary.html
And the series home page is: https://www.nytimes.com/column/1619-project
Hands like mine
The ethereal heaviness compresses the air
So thick my lungs can barely fill
I am in the presence of past trauma,
Lost hope. Horror.
My hands run over the rough surface
of ancient stones.
That had once been stained red
Seeds carried by fate have grown in the cracks
As if nature wants to erase this place
One weed at a time.
I hear the white noise of birds, the breeze, waves.
A cancellation of the sounds of before.
But there is no rewriting
The past is inescapable
it is written in our DNA
and in faces missing from our family trees.
Until we come to these places
to make our peace
we will be forever
Bound to repeat the crimes
Committed by hands like mine.