by Jennifer Givhan

My babies were playing in a cardboard box when the neighbors
brought back slavery I heard the locks unclicking the guns next door
their basest flags waving even here in the desert dirt behind cactus
flints heat prickling our necks          the box stretched we tucked limb
into limb folded lid         I’ve heard those slurs every haze-dragged
night each slit in each brick awaiting a reason to shoot & shooting
without reason      I’ve unhinged      where none of us I love exist in the
reckoning they’ve already envisioned like we should keep ourselves
clean as brides for breeding into fields of alfalfa or lettuce or tire factories
& metal-glinted kitchens behind barbed wire for two cents an
hour or nothing or worse than nothing         forget your fiction fuck
your unfinished wars         I’ve climbed into a box turned it backward
found our people standing guard at the edges         of time I’ve carried
my babies to their great-great-grandparents’ arms & said hold them
a minute & carried back those chains & carried back that lamplight
to the moment the neighbors poised at the tip of hell & they lit their
own way back in—