Written by: Bernadette Langer

If I be the future, 
where do I leave the past? 
All that these old eyes have seen
and weathered ears have screamed;   
A mind that has gathered its rage. 
A heart that has harbored its hate; 

The white man with a black belt
that never kept anything up, 
serving only to keep me down.

Of words and hands, too harshly felt; 
The shadows of feet-- 
from oak trees, still swinging.
The fear of sheets that silently shift 
on soundless Mississippi nights; 

How do I sleep on cotton 
and not feel the sting of its sweat?
Will you now give me a silken box 
to bury all along with me?

Will I suffocate 

under its weight forever? 
While you shovel light onto darkness, 
looking for absolution-- 

in the blending. 

Will you auction off my memories, 
like tiny babies 
so they can grow up without any; 

How can I be the mother of the future, 
when I am already a daughter 
of the past?

And how will my sons come to forgive, 
when their mother can never ever--
let them forget…