Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 63, April 2017)

Iman Williams
Until the Dolphin Flies and Parrots Live at Sea

The sun hid and tiptoed behind and around the moon as if its craters were frightening. As if the imbued Black of the moon was frightening. My grandma was never afraid. Her light peeked through my blinds as I negotiated with her to let me sleep for at least ten more minutes. Her warmth pierced my skin before she laughed at my plea and disappeared through the doors. Whenever my Grandma agreed to let me sleep in she headed immediately to the kitchen to make a food that traveled quickly through the house. Suffice to say, she woke me up every morning even when I was determined to bury myself in a twin size bed that felt infinitely safer than the predominately white school I went to.

My Grandmother always knew.

Whenever I tell people I was born and raised in the inner city of Baltimore they convey discomfort and concern with alarmed and probing looks. Their eyes frantically frisk my body in a very desperate attempt to excavate a story from a scar that might fuel their self-aggrandizing feelings towards my upbringing. They point to the peculiarity of the discolored lines on my arms that they failed to notice before. They wonder. But like my bed, the rows of houses and the life that imbued each home provided me with something that gated communities never could.

The gated communities killed Trayvon Martin.

The grass is never greener when it is diluted by the blood of an innocent Black child. And I never feared for my life in Baltimore. I never searched for the craters that marked my skin and I never hoped to be situated behind a white picket fence. Because I was always safe in the dark. I was always alive in ways that I would not have been had I been situated behind a white picket fence, with artificial bricks, smiles, and lawns, and artificial life in the guise of a watch team that quietly threatened to shoot me eight times. That quietly threatened to suffocate me. That quietly threatened throw a grenade on my seven-year-old child as she sleeps.

I continued to wonder why people were terrified of me and other Black children as the sun was afraid of the moon. I wondered why nobody at the independent school my grandparents enrolled me in wanted to sit next to me at lunch or in class. I wondered why, despite the schools progressive pedagogy, I was, more often than not, the only Black student in a room at any given moment. I wondered why my history teacher always looked at me for an abnormally long amount of time when he spoke about the transatlantic slave trade. They did not believe that the permutations of my craters hinged on something beyond the violence I navigated. The craters that imbue Blackness and Black people individually and collectively cannot be reduced to mere scars. Our scars are not stories to be identified, written, and disseminated in pamphlets about diversity. Our scars are not meant to be buried in the corners of classrooms, museums, or news outlets.

However afraid everyone seems to be of Blackness, our craters provide everyone, including those that are afraid of us, with a blueprint as to how to live in and through death. And while those who work in the service of white supremacy tip toe around Black life as the sun tiptoes around the moon, we do not cease to exist. As the moon exists, untended and suspended by gravity, we exist incomprehensibly. It has become clear to me that the will of Black people to exist in spite of and love in spite is what they fear because being loved and loving under conditions as violent as ours seems as incomprehensible as the moon’s suspension in the abysmal and infinite Blackness/darkness.

So I love harder.

Pop-Pop waited for me behind lines of stay at home moms in their mini vans waiting for their privileged and problematic children to be dismissed from school. As I approached the passenger seat it began to grow louder. Before opening the car door I heard Stevie Wonder in conversation with Pop-Pop.

“Did you know that life has given love a guarantee/To last through forever and another day…/Just as kindness knows no shame/ Know through all your joy and pain/ That I’ll be loving you always/”

My Pop-Pop always knew.

I rolled my eyes as I leaned to grab my seatbelt, frustrated that we were listening to the same radio station, music artist, and song as we had routinely done every morning and afternoon. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that my grandparents were giving me something that could not be reduced to a language simultaneously denied to and foisted on my ancestors. My grandparents reminded me every time they willed themselves to wake up with the moon, every morning we drove through our low income neighborhood and arrived at the unnecessarily lush independent school with an endowment I could never conceive of, every time they wore me out with that Stevie song- my grandparents reminded me that in spite of the racialized violence that our lives are profoundly affected by, Black life is possibilizing through love.

Our will to be is driven by our will to love ourselves and each other. I have never seen anything more revolutionary than the love that is shared between and among Black people. And what is possibilized through our love of Blackness and our love for each other is insurmountable. Black love and life provides the blueprint for alternative modes of being and existing in spaces that are infinitely empty and infinitely full. They fear what is possibilized through Blackness.

“Until the rainbow burns the stars out the sky/ Until the ocean covers every mountain high/ Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea/ Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream/Until the day is night and night becomes the day/ Until the trees and seas up, up, an fly away”

“Until the day that you are me and I am you”

The world threatens to kill us and yet it hides and tip toes around us. The world threatens to kill us and yet we love and live harder in our Blackness. The world is terrified by our will to survive, our will to love, and our will to humanize each other. Understanding that the lives of the Black trans people that are killed are lived in love and revolution is not an impossible or unimaginable task. Humanizing Black trans people is not an impossible or unimaginable task. But they are terrified of us.

So we love harder.

They are terrified of our love because our will to see and nurture the craters that mark our flesh is a type of resistance that disavows and deflects the bullets that pierce our skin and hearts. And when I feel their hate tear my flesh open, my grandmothers light and love begins to peak through the blinds and my Pop-Pop invites Stevie to sing to me. To remind me that despite the craters that my flesh may be marked by, the wounds that Blackness may be marked with, no bullet is strong enough to pierce through our love.

And like the moon, we live in movement. And like gravity, we are held together, held up, in movement and in love by something that most people cannot explain. But as infinite and abysmal as their hate may feel, our love will always exceed it.