poems

Before The Twice-Locked Gates

I come to you from a land where elders have shown their grandchildren how to sing their way through. I write this in a land where skin pounds skin. From the outside in, we call this brutality. From the inside out, we call this song. The gift of Africa tells us that song is the only thing that can outlast brutality. Whether you suffer an unjust system or an oppressive father, whether you have been in a prison of another’s making or in a cage of your own construction, this sun-baked continent that carries the tremor of the beginning tells any who will listen that song is the only thing that can outlast brutality. The drums, if leaned into, will carry you along. The drums, which have no beginning or end, will circle you through the many faces of pain and joy. The drums sound the heartbeat of God, clear and unending. Even when oppressed to the point of silence, the drumbeat cannot be silenced. Even if you are born a funé, a storyteller who is not permitted to sing, there is song in how you raise your eyes to the unwatched sky. Even if you are forbidden to cry your truth, there is the Geuca Solo, the dance without words before the twice-locked gates. Pain held in is pain. Pain let out is dance. Worry held in is worry. Worry let out is the cry of a bird that lives on the branch of heart that no one sees. Sorrow held in is sorrow. But sorrow let out is the song of the continents moving together. Even if you are forbidden to cry your truth, there is still the dance without words before the twice-locked gates. No matter if the gates are generations old, no matter if the gates are in your mind, no matter if when you move, you stumble. It is the gift of Africa for the children of the earth: God is the wood of the drums, drums sound the heartbeat of the living, song is the thing that will outlast brutality...

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