(I wrote this during the student protests in April)
Side A: bulldog days
It was time for the preview, the carnival, the sales pitch for those still blessed with the simplicity of choice. The entire bay was aglow with fairy lights, and soft choral music hummed in every corner. You were told to polish each grain of sand until it shone like a speck of gold, a potential pearl, until your hands wore raw ribbons of ruby red.
They dumped confetti onto the shoreline, covered the garbage with glitter and framed the stench on the dogwood trees. The Smilers came out of their shadowed nooks in the trees, teeth gleaming white, palms dry as chalk as they shook each and every hand. Their enamel made you remember, enabled that past so often repressed, when you were also small and scurried and told yourself this white powder in the air was sugar and not salt.
It did not take long for you to develop a resting bitch face standing next to them. You needed it, to prove to the others like you that you were not like them, the newcomers, so fresh-faced and eager and whose hands unknowingly stained the scenery, meticulously laid out, with pitch, just as your hands stained your work ruby red.
Now you still scurried, but tried to take bigger steps. And those no-longer-youngest-ones scurried back and forth, accommodating, still hopeful, the sugar in their mouths reduced to savory. Last year, two years in your mouth was filled with bitterness, so maybe this year is the year of salt, of a different kind of bitterness that goes well with a smile. And next year, the last before you are washed to the waves, perhaps your mouth would be filled with seawater brine, your tongue preserved sour, the perfect side dish.
And when the tide retreated, the bubbled foam pulled to another shore, you scuttled back to your house, which you built from driftwood to shield your body from the sun. You decorated it with sea glass and stones rounded by the waves, skeletons of sand dollars and seaweed, both succulent, still retaining the ocean’s sheen, and sinewy, which you used like rope. You huddled in this home of scattered things and you guarded it fiercely.
Side B: calhoun college
It was a statue of gold, and it was hated.
He who stood there looked like the figures in power, tall, covered in gold and diamonds the citizens’ ancestors bled their hands to dig from the sobbing earth. But times are different now, the figures in power say, this figure is only a reminder of times past. Times are different now, the figures say on stolen land, this statue on stolen land, its name a bullet to unmarked graves.
The children who pass the statue thought it beautiful, until their parents admonished them, with gentle words too soft to describe the history, that no, this was not a king, but a tyrant. What the parents don’t say is that tyrants are often kings, and perhaps if this statue was not there we would not be such deluded. That in a kingless era we still must remember.
We were taught to spit at the statue, to give it the evil eye. Those with much more exhibitionist leanings chanced to bare their asses and shit at the statue’s feet. Our spit polished the statue until it shone like platinum, underpaid labor swept the shit away and still the statue stood. A testament to the oppressor’s vanity, now a bitter lesson we must learn day after day, no end to life lessons.
Spit at the statue, disavow its power. Spit until you are spitting bile, spitting blood. Spit because there is your power, not words, not songs, not love, they are forcing us to hate because they are afraid of what will happen when we use our mouths to kiss each other’s bruises, what weapons of love we have when we can stop spitting at the goddamn statue and start healing with our spoken words of love.
Until the day we say enough, and take down the statue, our resolve sharper than diamonds and purer than gold. We return the gold and gems to the sorrowful earth, all but the base, ugly weathered stone, that we used as a platform to stand upon and watch the sunset alone without the false golden sun stealing its light.
Our hungry eyes looked at the skyline, untarnished after so long. The lesson’s over. It’s time now to rest and play and learn about the future, lessons that the past cannot teach.