In America we exist as bodies, in zones divided by American borders.
But the weight of spiritual invisibility is just too much.
I’m standing in this American zone, this American city, looking for my spirit.
Do you see something in my back? No, not on my back: in it? It feels like there’s something coming out of my back — is there something coming out of my ...?
I’m becoming a bird.
My skin breaks, a breach and then another. Wings emerge from my back and I am not only a bird. I am all birds: extinct, lost in the Great Flood. I am all present birds — landing on the branches of oaks. I am all future birds — a mixture of color, wing shapes and sizes — in this American zone, this American city.
See my wings send air into the streets, to the masses: the bag lady and her hobble; the mama with the little ones; the old man bidding farewell to a world that has forgotten him; those that carve slivers of space to hold joy in a country that cannot understand: the spirit is more than the genital, the breast, the prominence of the bicep, the vocal octave.
See me lift off the ground. See me soar over rooftops in the province of eagles and hawks. I am a human aircraft, made of plants, ritual, ancestor tears and blood.
Arise, say my breath, to those who transcend borders; families who wade through dangerous water to reach this American zone, this American city — fleeing war, famine, demise. Arise, say my breath, to another time when millions of African bodies were carried across the ocean, chained foot to foot as cargo.
Arise, to sons and daughters dead before their time in small American towns where the factories shut down and the jobs left and young souls inject their veins with synthetic pleasure to leave us at 16 or 19 or 23 on bathroom floors in fast food restaurants.
To parents who send their babies to school — P&J sandwiches (no crust), Thomas the Train backpacks, shoes that glow in the dark — and say goodbye forever, as bullets fly and thoughts and prayers pass from mouth to mouth.
Not unlike another child, a boy — tall and Black, but still a boy — who may steal candy from a corner store, wield a toy gun, act without reason as young boys often do, and die today because he is too tall and too Black and too un-innocent, in this American zone, this American city.
Transcend geography; say my breath — our collective, national breath. Transcend politics, our blood bellows; ignorant of race or creed or gender, knowing only that it must run should the skin be pricked. Just as the ribcage knows it must rise and fall with the passing of air; the body must intake water to continue; the heart must beat to sustain life; the spirit must be visible to sustain itself.
Can you see it? Our souls rising, drenched in the energy of enlightenment?
Witness our spirits awaken one by one in a nation of stolen people and stolen land. Revel in the reclaiming of lost tongues, freedom of mind and body, the glory of small infinite euphoria gifted to us by those who came before. Behold our wings, bursting from the backs of noncitizen and citizen souls, feathers breaking through multicolored bodies — the tip, then the whole.
Pay homage to those who must bear the labor of birthing their own wings.
Those who must suffer the sorrow of prolonged flightless-ness; who must look at the sky from cruel pavement and await levitation.
Let all weeping cease as our national wingspan comes into view, as our wings flap with great force, creating wind from which all things that bind must flee.
In this American zone, this American city.
Rebecca Nicholson is a poet, singer/songwriter and playwright. This piece is part of the “A Moment of Silence” project in which members of Minnesota’s theatrical, musical, artistic and literary circles reflect on this troubled summer. It can be found at blackmnvoices.com.