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Tea Blood Odyssey by Semaj Brown

Awakening: Part One

At dawn, I needed to drink the morning as if it were a poem, bitter tea infusion, amber leaves washing injury from the battered night, dredging justice. My spoon swirls, scraping the stained path. They were trying to walk this Earth forward, pushing a tremendous globe with a million angels in the rears, standing vulnerable chanting: “Black Lives Matter!” She was our 5 ft. 3-inch eighteen-year-old hero, high school senior graduating into conviction.

I want her to live. I want a lot.

The morning after the conflagration, burning virus, beating bones, I needed to absorb a poem in the manner in which Strep throat takes tea, one sip anticipating the painful swallow of breaking news, breaking people.

I demanded a sturdy verse, a stinging ginger solution. I searched the cupboard for an obligatory cup the way some yearn for Joe, strong, black, intellectual practitioner— dense with awakening— words to save me, not woeful, crying cream soft steam, but an obstinate lyric that threatens to hook the corner of my upper lip into a begrudged smile during this time of horror.

I took a giant step out of my mind, inched toward my shadow, encountered a prayer disguised as a poem, bartering my escape, “I want two tickets, one for me and the other for the girl/woman who is not my daughter.”

Knowing she wouldn’t discard mission in a Covid mask for the uninfected air of an off-the-road tech café in Nairobi, I asked anyway.

The poem spoke assuredly to both of us, “They are marching there too, in Nairobi, on the moon, and on the sea bottom. The world is convulsing. Worlds are convulsing.”

“I know I’m not your mama, but I’ll reserve a seat for you on that 4 passenger flight to Madagascar, in the event you change your mind.” Her vertical arm was a kite thrusting a sign like a star to the apex of the mountain where crows fly and make revolution. Black Lives Matter, it read.

I just want her to live. I want a lot.

I hunger to be eclipsed at the end of the J line where rodents bark in the subway and violins prostitute for coins. I confess vanishing into poetry trance is the sweet dream I dream of decanting enchantment, pouring slow as strap molasses beyond the brim of a demitasse into the circle of his round embrace.

But, in this harrowing hour bludgeoned by headlines, and distance, in this time of stolen soul, all that remains are the remains: Poem of my Tea Blood reflecting the face of Our Breonna, oh our Breonna, oh our Daunte Wright, oh our Brother Floyd, and Sandra Bland.

We are the reckoning, the 400 year instant the guilty are shook, stammer, and squeeze the neck of quiet.

This is the flash: rubber bands tied around the consciousness of concocted assumptions tighten.

In this excruciating interval, unbearable gravity, branded brains who yet squint at truth, refuse to accept verity —drown—their arrogance flailing in quicksand, in the wavy liquid of our Tea Blood, sinking in the bubbling sight of blindness.

The blood they spill and drink as tea will be their poisoning. The blood they spill and drink as tea will be their poisoning.

Semaj Brown
Flint, Michigan’s First Poet Laureate

*The Tea Blood Odyssey: The Awakening is the first movement of a four movement
unfinished opera.© 2021

Ms. Brown is the creator of The Poetry Pod Project (P3), the interdisciplinary, intergenerational poetry literary/literacy civic initiative. P3 utilizes poetry and literacy games to enhance reading and writing while incorporating the arts and the sciences.

Ms Brown is recognized by The Academy of American Poets, Ny, Ny. She is author of the book, “Bleeding Fire! Tap the Eternal Spring of Regenerative Light” Ms. Brown is also a university lecturer, a playwright, and dramatist.

Please come back to April 30 for a special edition of Poetry Confessions: Tea Time with the Poet Laureate featuring guest poets as well as Brown writing about transformative power!

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