A Meditation on Burnt Offerings

this is the function
of violence--
to make you shackle
your own tongue
chain it
until it atrophies
train it
to recoil
make you consider swallowing it
because after so long
what else is there to say?
aren’t the words all used up?

& cut off your hands, too
cuz you’re tired of digging graves

set yourself ablaze
forget the sackcloth
you’ll become the ashes
you’ll return to dust
you don’t remember
what dust feels like
but you do know
that’s the point
you don’t want to remember
how it feels

yet here your tongue revolts
& you will honor
the blackness they call thug
the divinity they call perversity
the sacred they say is unholy
ain’t it something how they say
our sacred
is unholy
yet they stay sacrificing us
makes you wonder
what heaven they are seeking
when this blood-letting
this splitting of bone
scarring of spirit
this caustic bleaching
is none righteous

Photo of author by Zaina Alsous.

Photo of author by Zaina Alsous.

Destiny Hemphill is a black conjure womxn & poet who has found homes in Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and most recently North Carolina. She is a 2016 recipient of the Amiri Baraka Poetry Scholarship at Naropa University's Summer Writing Program; her poetry has appeared in Narrative Northeast and on Button Poetry.