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by alexis gumbs, United States Jun 29, 2005
Human Rights   Poetry


In the Elmina Castle, a slave dungeon in Ghana that is now a tourist attraction, there is a post in the center of a square in the center of the dungeons where female prisoners were kept. As one of many forms of punishment, female prisoners were chained in full exposure to the elements for an indefinite period of time in the view of all of their fellow prisoners. This punishment was most often assigned when a female prisoner resisted public rape by the guards or resisted when publicly chosen for more private rape by the governor, the main authority figure in the castle. The governor lived directly above these dungeons and had a balcony, which allowed him to conveniently both choose female prisoners and observe their punishment.

This poem is dedicated to women who resist.

tell the sun print hope into my back
tell the wind write a spell for my name
because I have forgotten

tell the clouds form fists
tell the rain drum secrets
because I cannot dance

ankles and wrists
beat metal burn
at four points of a stone center

tell the sky fall
because I cannot look up
tell the ground split
because I cannot kneel

burning tense beaten
press a grounded star

tell the earth spin faster
because I cannot move
tell the sea don’t retreat
because I cannot scream again


bruised brown bloated
cracked along faults of defiance

tell the past I was looking
because I cannot speak
tell the future I was waiting
because you can


tell the sun don’t retreat
tell the wind spin faster
tell the clouds split
tell the rain fall
tell the sky drum secrets
tell the ground form fists
tell the earth write a spell for my name
tell the sea print hope into my back
tell the past i am waiting
tell the future i am looking
you can dance look up kneel move scream again speak

i will be forgotten.



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Writer Profile
alexis gumbs

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a second year PhD student in the Duke University English Department in Durham, North Carolina, USA. Alexis thinks she can find models for creative political resistance to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the prison industrial complex, the war on drugs, the global war on terror and the occupation of Palestine in the formal qualities of literature by black women and the work of musical sensation OutKast. Crazy right? Alexis is currently co-facilitating a workshop called Love Circles with Durham elementary schoolers and workshop called Choosing Sides with gang members in Durham who have been suspended from Durham Public Schools. She also serves on the National Young Women of Color Council (dedicated to awareness, empowerment, prevention and treatment of HIV) and the planning committee of the International Black Youth Summit. Alexis has also recently published a youth action workbook called Emergency Broadcast that is being used by young people and youth educators across the United States and in Trinidad, Jamaica, Anguilla and the UK.
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