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Black Hearts, Black Voices II

by Fifth Wall Performing Arts

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Introduction 00:26
Love is not practical No matter how hard we try, we can’t tell it what it is or create rules to bar it down. Love tells us what it is, love is beyond us
I want to think about the girls in a late-summer field of flowers: yes, you, trio of sisters, one leaned up against the other in yellow dresses posing for a photo as the wind picks up as the rest of the world merges onto the onramp behind us: the rest of the world under the same white fire sky falls out of existence. And my mother’s cloud-clear voice at our criminal (yes, it's illegal to pick bluebells in Texas) bouquet: “We won’t tell.” and took the picture, anyway: black girls holding bluebells the color of the atlantic by break of day;
I wonder if they stayed the same, despite—they must have thought it was an alien invasion: TEXAS: in a world without mercy, them and I would be beautiful in our death; could we forge a universe filled only with negations and wouldn’t that be mercy? what would we, I, they— what would you know of fractions? must I remember you within or without fragments, little creek town, whom my mother loved (how quickly they all hurried from us) must’ve been fire in that glass bottle: a hand holding a prism up to sunlight: a black boy buying a black girl soda to share these dates go by so quickly the porch still smells of smoke the creek is low—the tadpoles: an ode to the oak cliff that fled: the caesura of first black family to buy a house in this nice town. gone: the sun on fire, and me; I am incapable of throwing sparks I start no fires and win no wars, I own no spaceships. they fear what was left behind, in all their haste I wonder where they went; straight into the waters of the gulf or atlantic just to get away? or maybe into the sun— or maybe into the sun— how sweet and sharp this feeling tastes with you all so far and yet so near as half a century away;
the land from an airplane window is all the same: street, road, or blanket of trees, cluster of houses all the hills ironed out: all dimensions taken care of: uniform yet without clean lines, so distant and so busy I see hunger on the horizon: so it is here, thirty thousand feet above the ants and their business below, I am struck: I am trying to calculate the physics of this hunger: the energy exerted, the work: someone send for a mathematician, give me a teacher, someone who will listen, who will count for me approximately or exactly how many times they could have walked away. I wonder about the hunger— I can feel it flex and bend like a plane wing against the headwind: what can be forgiven and what cannot: what lies beyond the horizon is inescapable but then there is you, MISSOURI soul, I can see you from my window. the altitude obscures all things yet there you are your body hanging by the rope; there is a part of me that wants to understand, and then there is my hand, snapping the window shade shut —if only the bough had broken— the bough did not break. And the hunger won. The horizon terrifies, and the atlantic gnaws, yes, still, on the setting sun;
There were countless times in elementary and middle school when I laid awake at night staring at the ceiling and just wishing I could be whisked away. I used to pretend with this Max Steel action figure I had (basically think of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible). I told everyone I liked to make up action stories around him, but at night, he was just mine. My prince. I lay with him next to me, wishing I had a real man to hold me. I wish I could take it back. That that part of my life had just never existed—wiped from the scrapbooks of my memory. But that was me. I needed someone. Anyone. Who just understood what it felt like. Because all I had were movies. And movies were just that, right? Once the credits rolled, it was back to the real world. The real world where you learned to be quiet and not sing aloud, especially songs about love and dreams. The real world where people started asking questions if all your drawings were of girls (because that’s who you related with). The real world where every day was an experiment of what pieces of your true self you could reveal and what could be received and accepted. And some days, you just needed to fit in (even if it meant pretending). After kissing my elementary school crush, I came home and told my parents everything. How I was filled with butterflies and could still taste her cherry-flavored lip gloss. How I even did it with tongue. I felt I had reached a rite of passage. Now, I could be like everyone else. I was grounded. For the next two weeks. Turns out kissing a girl before you’re 10 years old is not acceptable.
We were both young when I first saw you… (“Love Story,” Taylor Swift, 2008) It’s funny—this song is about remembering when you were young, when you met a special person I listen to this song and I see her. her long, blonde hair (like Rapunzel) her coffee-with-cream eyebrows her faint freckles and dimpled smile She was my special person, the person I thought I would love and give my everything to. we even dated for a super brief time, though I’m not sure 24 hours in middle school really counts it was a rough time for her when it happened, we kept being friends “We were both young…” was a song we could come together to. it was our song, in a way and I did love her and tell her everything even when I left for Georgia in 7th grade and visited four years later, something seemed to be still there it wasn’t what I wanted it to be though four more years after that visit I would discover I could never love her the way I wanted and so much from that part of my life seemed to be opened as if I had only just found the light switch Love is not practical No matter how hard we try, we can’t tell it what it is or create rules to bar it down. Love tells us what it is, love is beyond us
I came from wilted lettuce fertilizer tended by lonely cracked fingers. My roots start below the mountain but I’ve grown alongside it sometimes I can see the sun. You call us inspiring. My seed was raised to sustain itself with less because the wind beats my branches bald and the blight comes back every summer and I’ve got to squeeze water out of vinegar and my skin keeps getting thicker and I’m clinging to your windowsill You call us survivors. But you spring up like sweet tobacco in your season misted by distilled rain cradled by ripe earthworms warmed by red lights and I finally see the trellis you’ve been climbing under the roof of your greenhouse, perched on the mountaintop.
Where do I go to bury all the bodies that aren't there? The ones with heartbeats, still—the ones that are waiting, still. There is only so much the body can hold. I wonder what happens to the rest— what becomes of the overflow? Does it seep down into KENTUCKY soil? Deep down ‘till it hits american bedrock? Or does the digging of the wound bite into a body’s DNA? Riddle or puncture holes between the protein sequences. Turn the four bases into gaps—into gasps. The soul struggling for inhale. Sometimes, this news makes a body feel like it can drown surrounded by air. Yes, I am begging and begging with my own salted heart bleeding out between my teeth. Sometimes, I remember how deep this dark goes. What decays and what does not? The whole of flesh. This sinking heat I own. Heat that crackles and breaks along its surface; the heat that eats and eats and knows no bedrock. Heat that knows the waters because it knows the fact: just one foot in a riptide is enough of an excuse for the atlantic to swallow you whole.
the atlantic


Fifth Wall Performing Arts presents:
Black Hearts, Black Voices II

This show is supported in part through the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund and Fifth Wall Listeners Like You!


released February 13, 2022

Audio design by Sajada Domino
Poetry and short stories by Ashanti Davis, Nicholas Felder, and Maya Johnson
Directed by Maya Johnson
Dramaturgy by Karl Ronneburg and Grey Grant
Marketing by Zoe Hart


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