Image: Jacob Lawrence, The Burning, 1997. Davidson Galleries.
by Amber Officer-Narvasa
[cw: police mention]
“type ‘ i was born’ and then let your predictive write your autobiography.” when you can’t tell where you’re going follow the algorithm, it’ll lead you somewhere you knew. they said bones and breath were not enough to hold the Blackness of futurepast, so we gave it to the phone instead, sometimes it sings to us and sometimes it calls the cops and sometimes it just tells us what we [didn’t want to] love.
i was born on the first floor of a widespread slave revolt in the year twenty hundred and four. my mama held me while she ran, because leaving was a morning thing. i was born on the first floor of a widespread slave revolt in the year five thousand and seventy eight. above us were the machines, on every floor we were the machines, the blanket of skin pooled around us, on the seventh floor were the ghosts and they drank wine and they were brave. the floors stretched all the way to the clouds, on the tenth were the hands of those we’d loved, we went there after dark sometimes and said yes and yes and yes. we grew slick with longing and bloody with the flight of brick, we grew wet like leaves and veined, we grew tall and twined as braids. When they saw us like this they ran, but then they sliced us open from above.
We drank the kisses and swallowed them whole, we pressed our foreheads to the mud so the river would remember, i was born on the first floor of a slave revolt in the year seven hundred and ninety nine. around my wrists and ankles were the roots of trees, trunks stretching to the hundredth floor, i said why did they spread me as if i were the earth. i was born in the beginning of a slave revolt and i touched your lips to make sure it would never end. we dug deep down by the edge of the sea and all we found was black. the salt was sharp enough to kill and so we did. i was born on the last day of a slave revolt when we stopped and looked around at the charred houses and lone chickens and we buried our heads in the handles of our weapons and we laughed.
Author Info: Amber Officer-Narvasa is a Sagittarius. First Draft is a new column that will run weekly. In this column, Amber will think with images, race, and the digital.