Here and Here

Ashaki M. Jackson

Ned Evans

Manhattan, 1713: No slaves over the age of 14 could be out at night without a lantern by which they could be plainly seen.  

 

How does one exist     always
in violent illumination     The light flooding:
bright maw

Night is blacker and shifting 
uncontrolled     What must the Black body look like

glowing at dusk     always
foreign     haloed 
                                        warning 
    others of  its coming

 

 

Oversight

 

                  Light
                           to your shimmering black

Lantern to chin, Chattel 

     Your glint and focused
quiet
Your poor person’s pride     Well-lit 
                                                       niggerness 

floating:
               a firefly’s wonder

                   Your haunt     
humble An unsaved     shadow

                 big as a new moon

 

 

Brooklyn, 2014: Omnipresence

 

Floodlights loom over 
the projects
                              humming
on watch like sentinels

In this open-ended morning     the Black 
body always moves 
     toward heaven bound

     No ones mistakes its slipping between 
drawn curtains as safety

The constant whirring of generators:
locust     death rattle
      surveillance                                                               Hear them always

 

               buzzing  
into bone          Officers lean
into their confidence  

               Each evening
the lights: surrogates     observing 
and pushing through  

          privacy     Shining on all 
inches of suspicion 

 

 

Amplification

 

You and your broad nose 

 

are of interest     In the furious shine
you cast shadows 
                                   At all times of day 

you fit     several
descriptions

What is light but an accomplice?

 

 

Manhattan, 1722: Black funerals had to be held during daylight.

 

Look:
               the body adapts

                             Is even 
buried in the sun’s 
     brightest moments

What can be done
to a body that sleeps
              and prays in the perpetual day
     beams seeping into its casket?

|look|

What can be done 
with a body watched from all angles for signs
               of danger 
               and magic

Without the death’s sunset 
the body is eternal as the humming
sun

|Yes and brighter still|

 

 

Manhattan, 1742: Every household was required to keep watch for suspicious night-time behavior of slaves.

 

Even evening     the body 
is studied

     its shadows watched naturally as if changing
seasons     Long nights

are more sport than rest     Look
at the dark and its supple
shapes

          Isn’t the moon ripe
steely as an iron bit
Vigilant as the community     armed
and encouraged

 

 

Where Black:

 

                    Opening the day

     In the crevices of Father’s hard working palms

          A quiet outline between water and land

Grandmother’s womb
               In the soil that holds her first-born child

 

Suspending each dead star in time

 

     Just ahead 
                              Running

Behind the double-sided tongue

Watching quietly from the trees as we ruin each other

 

Here and here
             and here

 

 

Ashaki M. Jackson

Ashaki M. Jackson is a social psychologist and poet living in Los Angeles. She is a Cave Canem and VONA alumna whose work appears in CURA, Pluck! and Prairie Schooner among others. She serves on the VIDA: Women in Literary Arts board and authored two chapter-length collections – Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (MIEL). 

The poet extracted italicized dates and laws from The New-York Historical Society’s Slavery In New York: Classroom Materials (Waters, 2005), available online.

Ned Evans

Born in Burbank, California in 1950, with an MFA from UC Irvine in 1974, Ned Evans has lived in Venice, California since the early 1970s. Working primarily in painting in acrylic and mixed media on canvas, he has also spent years exploring photography, collage, and mixed media sculptural reliefs. He has shown throughout the United States and Europe. While his work is unquestionably influenced by the Southern California landscape, ultimately and inevitably his reconstructing and building edifices and foundations, on top of which exist the nuances of illusion and light.