Elizabeth Upshur

Body Count

thoughts and prayers if you can spare them—
Amber Evans died. young. 

as the coffin falls like a synthetic domino
as the name tugs the war on activists into the black 
as her face ghosts on the immortal internet, 

her white dress is an uncountable urgency,
we too rage fire and brimstone at her forward homegoing
at this escorted homegoing, a mockery of God and good deaths.

wonder and re-member with me in this moment—
Lucy Terry Prince died. old.

rest well. rise in power, elder Luce, whose home
became Little Africa, voice seizing, singing, storytelling,
spilling the Good Book like sweet summer rain, trickling

and trickling down, down the inner red of bones
to now…instead of zero at the bone, we find each other, 
are each other, the harvest, yes, is us.

I dreamed it and forgot—
how I too die. old or murdered young.

I die their daughter, their sister sable, 
some call a curse, but I, I say a gift, 
a tongue that will say on in bold red letters 

skin a lobe of lung, their voices sing when my throat
is hoarse from crying, mine roars when their words
are burnt, a holy sister trinity. 
 
Lucy Terry Prince

is the first. we’ve evacuated the dirt from her bones,
pulled her up from the grave flowered over, dusted off
the skirt and dried the tears wept over sons
fighting in the Revolutionary War. There’s some darning,
or some peas that needed shelling in her hands,
just like my grandmother Mary’s, and all the stories
are pouring from her lips:
my birth after the miscarriage,
my mother’s birth and her French name,
we’re cousins to (and the genealogy is all a spider’s web)
Jimmy’s daughter getting married at the armory 
aunt Rose’s badly done face and don’t let her look bad for her homegoing that way
Roberta’s city raised children down for the summer
everyone comes to her house Sundays, for a good something sweet,
church curls dragging down against slick necks, 
my little girl braids stiff keeping the hair from traveling,
cheek on my mother’s thigh, the porch cool,
twilight blue haze about to usher out the mosquitoes.
Everything is a poem and a family tree and a story
the way grandma Mary tells it, the way Lucy, the first,
would have told it, silence and mmmhmm that foundation
of white space, the refrains the way cousin faces skip
generations, the way sparking eyes and graves bookend us. 


***

Elizabeth Upshur is a Black Southern writer and Associate Poetry Editor for Okay Donkey Mag. She earned her MFA from Western Kentucky University and recently won the inaugural Brown Sugar Lit Magazine prize. Her writing can be found in Colorism Healing Anthology, Pomona Valley Review, and Red Mud Review.