Don’t speak to me of “healing” racism,
or “wounded souls” or the “painful hurt”
until you are willing to feel the scars
on my great-great-grandmother Laury’s back.
Don’t speak to me of “values”
or “justice” or “righting wrongs”
until you are able to feel the heartache
of my great-grandfather Graham
whose father may have been his master.
Don’t speak to me of “equity”
or “opportunity” or the “common good”
until you are able to hear the fear
from my grandmother Mae
as the only black woman in her college.
Don’t speak to me of “passion”
or “longing” or “standing on the side of love”
until you know the shame
felt by my mother Edwina
mocked by teachers for the curve of her back.
Don’t speak to me of “together”
or “understanding” or “empathy”
until you know my rage
as a young actor hearing the direction
to “be more black . . . more male.”
The pain you are trying to heal has no real name.
This “pain” you speak of has no story;
it is anonymous, vague, and empty.
Don’t speak to me of “healing”
for I heal the second I am ripped apart.
My wounds self-suture,
and like the clever creature I am,
I just grow new legs to outrun the pain ever faster.
It is something I have had to practice for generations,
that feel like an eternity.
So, please don’t speak to me of “healing”
because you cannot know what healing means
until you know the hurt.