Photo by A. H. Jerriod Avant.

finding ceremony: a song for/from seven generations

How do we hold memory? How do we heal it? This poem by Alexis Pauline Gumbs is an embodiment of Southern conjure practice.

finding ceremony: a song for/from seven generations 1

i.
stomp until it become dance. stomp until it be. come dance. wake us with your feet.
we live in your hips. wake us with your hips. we live in the ground. keep dancing
(with the wake in your waist) and follow. we will tell you, where to go.

ii.
cleanse. your sweat an offering. your salt a memory. your return to water, long.
awaited. wash like no ones watching. wash like everyone’s waiting. wade like you
know trouble. where it waits and how it watches. drink from upstream.

iii.
stack them. stack your sisters. stack your sayings. stack the stolen stuffy days. stack
the secrets. stack the staying. and stand back. look at the cost. long for the lost.
scream as loud as you want. and curse like a prayer. braid it into your hair. let it cut
through the air, and your fingertips. put your hands to your lips, to remember the
blood. okay good,
now scream as loud as you should.

iv.
put your hands on your belly and breathe. keep your hands on your belly and grieve.
with both hands on your belly leave. all your best things. behind. leave all. your
blessed things. besides your hands. put your hands on your belly. let it grow. and let
go. and know.

1
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 “is therefore a condition of each other’s truth” ​Sylvia Wynter, No Humans Involved, 67.
This is an excerpt of manuscript entitled Dub: Finding Ceremony which follows Spill:Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, and M Archive: After the End of the World as the third book in a triptych is an experimental text in conversation with the theoretical work of Jamaican theorist Sylvia Wynter.

v.
burn it out. bleach it out. leach it out onto the counter. cook it into cake. make more
than you can take. and more than you can keep. refuse to weep. forget to sleep. wake
up to pray. clean out the day with rum and rose water. grow hibiscus and daughter
where it is said they should not grow. burn and know.

vi.
help until you can’t help it. help until you hurt. hurt until you can’t heal any more.
then work. work until you can’t worry. work until you can’t wait. work until you get
weary with wisdom and hate. hate until you can’t hear it. hate until you can’t not.
hate until you hear whispers. listen until you get caught. catch until you catch
feelings. catch until you catch up. lift until you find feelers under the muck. muck
until you make meaning. mean until you make more. move until you can’t mean it.
then sit down at the door.

vii.
sit and the singing surrounds you. sit in the steady screams. stay and listen behind it
all for the stars and the whales and the dreams. stay for the songs that find you. stay
for the smallest sound. stay your behind right here and sit directly on the ground.
open your mouth. now give us what you found.

  • Alexis Pauline Gumbs

    About

    Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a community-accountable feminist poet and educator in Durham, North Carolina. She is the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity and the co-editor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines.