Growth is the hardest place for harm to lay its hair.
Of troublesome seed, we invasive bunches,
all narrow spike, fungus smut—the seedhead tells it all.
Despair, Self-Loathing running hands
through my beard.
& God out back having His heels washed
in water you & I use for drink—.
By our roots Old Words will echo: You don’t need
much moisture to seed now. Papi, cut us down only opens
the body to spread its beads.
Improvise, I tell myself. Let the shit go.
All of it means this: not everyone has a phoenix
inside. Some of us growing beside
roads, among beer cans & ditch weeds, waste & trees
smothered with hunger, sightlessness, maladies.
but What if there is nothing glamorous inside?
Can I make a good bed out of tallboys & plastic bags?
If nothing in the world calls your name, mouth wide, teeth gleaming,
If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
* * *
This piece originally appeared on the PBS NewsHour in June 2016, in response to the nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.