Sean Johnson

Claudia

Give me your tired,
your poor,
your huddled masses
with constellations hearts.
And I’ll give you
the Border Patrol
yearning and ready,
equipped with
rounds of black holes
for the automatic chips
on their shoulders.
Trigger fingers always aching,
groping for even
the tiniest tendrils of threat
to the American dream.
They can’t sleep peacefully
if anything other than drugs
and weapons cross this border.

I am told, Lady Liberty
waits in welcome
at the foot of the ocean,
but if you stand on
the American side of the Bravo,
you can hear the river yelling
“Keep my name
out of your mouth.”

But you came anyway,
following the pathways that
would soon line your coffin.
Stepped out of the water,
ripe with expectation,
the dogs sniffed hope in the wind.
No questions.
Just the sound of sovereignty
splitting the air before
rippling through your hair
like capillary waves
on the surface of a river.
Dispersed tongues.
No last words.
Only stuttering syllables
landing hard and unforgiving
like boats dashed
against the unseen.
You collapse and
a dam of tall grasses
mercifully cradles you
while the earth murmurs,
Claudia,
your breath is not welcome here
in this stolen land
though hands that mirror
the darkness of the soil
built it with
the bones and teeth
of their memories.
No last rites.
Just a flightless bird
and your blood
rushing towards the Rio Grande,
begging to be taken
back home.

Black Girl

                                 What my mama describes as ancestry
sends White folks cowering in fear.
I don’t do anything in particular to tower
over the masses.  I suppose it’s just the big
power in my walk that makes them shrink
into my shadows.  I get it though. I imagine
I’d be frightened too if I ran upon a woman
carrying every tribe from Ashanti to Zulu
in her hips.

                                   Though often mistaken
for a loud-mouth bitch with nappy hair,
I pay no mind to the way they try to define
what can only be described as indescribable.
Not everyone is meant to decipher
the white noise from spoken hieroglyphs.
Not too many can separate the ostentatious from
the call of a lioness. And as you can imagine,
folks who’ve never had roots don’t know much
about kinky curls that keep
the past, present, and future moving
in one smooth figure eight.

                                     So they try to pretend
they’re appalled by my skin, but I see the
secret glances.  The longing to wrap themselves
up in my midnight sky. I know they wish
they could steal my coat of many colors.
                                     And that’s why wherever I go,
                                      I take my Self with me.
I transport my flesh in armored self-esteem
knowing its worth, knowing that from its blackness
all the worlds were made.

                                      And even though they try to redefine it
as hideous, inferior, a strain of disease for
which there is no cure, they know with each
vertebra of their dismantled spines that I
am the entry way of everything that ever was,
is, and forever will be.

From a young age, Sean developed an insatiable love for the written and spoken word and has performed throughout the country. She is the author of the chapbooks Unpredicted Prophecy and My Name Be. Sean has had art work and poetry published in 29 anthologies worldwide, and in 2014 her poem “Rearview Mirror” was nominated for The Pushcart Prize in Poetry. All My Heroes Were Assassinated is her first full length collection with two of its poems nominated for “Best of the Best” by Edify Fiction and Lunch Ticket, and she was recently nominated for Texas Poet Laureate. In addition to her poetic endeavors, she is also a painter, teacher, rock star auntie, and humanitarian known for her monthly homeless outreach, disaster relief program, and mission work in Africa.

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