The Ghosts of Alexandria

Killing two birds with one stone, I wanted to create some Halloween content, while also focusing on creative writing. 

This poem was inspired by the many examples of slavery’s dark history sometimes on display, but many times hidden, in Alexandria, Virginia.

For example, Bruin’s Slave Jail was once used to imprison escaped slaves. This is where escaped slaves Mary and Emily Edmondson were held after they, and their companions, were caught attempting to flee to freedom on the ship The Pearl. The horrors of the jail were used as inspiration by author Harriet Beecher Stowe when writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Today, the building is used for real estate and business offices. While there is a statue for the Edmondson sisters on site, it’s unmarked with no background information. The offices are not open to the public.


 

The Ghosts of Alexandria

Zombie stampede
The mindlessly stagnant stutter-step along the store fronts
Corralled in corporate corridors, compete for what the hoards want
Corpses with their cards out, horrid with the horror-core
Coroners are banks now, burrow while others borrow more
Insisting that the cysts and abscesses of excess and avarice
don’t infect the sons of slave traders and the Appomattox rich
But the mud – yes the mud sings of the blood that saved me
And the blood – O’ the blood of the still enslaved free
leaches deep beneath the streets where the hobnobbing shine
like the bony finger tendrils of the loblolly pine
In the swamp, on the swamp, “Massa built it on a swamp”
Down the river where they sent us in the blessed name of Want

They shamble down the boulevard, drawn by the mirage
of the Bloomers building built on bones; and behind the façade
lay the bodies, Christ the bodies, O’ they came in by the thousands;
locked in cages, in the basement – buy consignment Eisenhower
buy at Starbucks by the harbor, Old Towne market with the farmers
buy the sundress, buy the bonnet! Don’t you want it, O’ you want it
Sing a sonnet, seek asylum from the nigger genus phylum
and build economic promise on black backs filed and piled on
that mud – yes that mud sings of the blood that saved me
And the blood – O’ the blood of the still enslaved free
leaches deep beneath the streets of the zombie apocalypse
and the brain dead oblivious skip to Abercrombie Fitch
In the swamp, on the swamp, “Massa built it on a swamp”
Down the river where they whipped us in the wicked name of Want

This is commerce. This is money; it’s the backbone of our country
It’s the haunting of The Wanting, it’s the running somewhere sunny
It’s the hunting of those running; it’s the servile minds of servants
It’s the looking at a person, on the surface, seeing: purchased.
It’s the looking at a person with her purse out for a purchase
in a building that sold chillun but has since then been repurposed
Cause the mud’s oversaturated with innate grief
and the blood – O’ the blood of the still enslaved free
reaches deep from out our veins, up the water tanks and drains
while the zombies, blind and stupid, stumble over baby graves
from where they first taught niggas how to post up on the block
Alexandria, Virginia. … It’s an awesome place to shop!

 

 

His name
How it sounded, tumbling from his father’s lips
While the chains
and the yells melt in cacophonic fits
with the screams and the tears
of the teens and his peers
all shuffled in a line
to the street, from the pier.

“Zeshawn!” He’d screamed,
when they pulled them up into the sun
He hadn’t seen Zeshawn in weeks
so he rushed to touch his son.

On the bow of the ship with the waves in the air
and the mist kissed their skin and the braids
in their hair

And the fear
It was mixed
defecation’s stench
and their bodies stayed clenched
in emaciation’s grip

he collapsed to the floor, Lord he couldn’t make the trip
Five feet to his baby, to his boy
to his prince

And they beat him and they beat him and they stabbed him and they shot

And Zashawn

Yes, he cried and he screamed, yet he watched

O’ my father, O’ my father
He cried out and he implored
In the darkness, head to toe, among the strangers on the floor

Now he’s naked in the square
Under every pair of eyes
and the name his father spoke is just a number
just a price

horrified and confused
just a nigga on the block

Alexandria, Virginia

What a lovely place to shop.

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