A Nation Engaged: Kitchen, After Rumi's Guest House
Throughout this election season, NPR and its member stations have been having a collective national conversation called “A Nation Engaged.” The project has looked at central themes in this year’s election, including this week’s question:
What does it mean to be American?
For our contribution to the project, we put this question to some promising young spoken word artists.
Today, we bring you a poem entitled Kitchen, After Rumi’s Guest House by Kyndall Flowers, a 17-year-old student at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer and Community High Schools.
Kitchen, After Rumi's Guest House, by Kyndall Flowers
I. I swear this afro is a family tree every curl its own line of lineage twisting tangling around each other beautifully too often violently but here on my black head and my mommas “I ain't white my whole family’s just light” Black head my “no I’m not mixed and we don't call it creole” Black head and my daddy just capital B Black Black like didn’t run fast enough Black farthest back is South Carolina slave Black Black like I can hear my ancestors whispering my real name to me from the hair behind my ear in my sleep I can never remember it in the morning II. I swear this afro is an ocean grave every wave a new chance to leave something for the tomb my hair looks so good in salt water like it finds home in ocean thats funny aint it Black girls hair find home in the ocean like its always more comfortable in the atlantic like there it rests in peace it reaches out behind me when i swim tumbles through the waves like its trying to hold on to the currents if i let it it’d drag me down all the way down till it reached something familiar twist around a black girl's skull and tell me she’s my cousin and I’d stay there underwater swimming in all that blue and Black breathing in all that lost language floating around their waterlogged lungs I think I’d take a rib back up to shore try to grow a girl from it try to bring back a generation III. I swear this afro is a guest house every knot its own great depression you should see how much pulled hair i’ve flushed down the toilet trying to rewrite history with a fine toothed comb pik out what ain't pretty the guests that live here and don't pay rent and be too loud and don't clean up the guests so heavy they bent my back forced their way into my roots and pushed out of me a graveyard country there is too much blood and earth caked onto my scalp my grandmother tried to wash it away in the kitchen sink until she recognized some of the bodies in the dirt it gets heavier every day a new tragedy makes a home on my head drips blood into my eyes turns everything red I pik my hair out try to make space for them in all of this thick and I would be grateful for whoever comes if each had been sent as a guide from beyond but I would much rather them be guides here playing with toy guns and selling cigarettes on the corner walking home and listening to music I want to pour the blood back into the bodies the air back into the lungs re-set the bones and none of this ever happened How does it feel? To wake up light To be the carried and the carrier To taste freedom and not also taste blood Salt Sweat To have it go down easy To sing the national anthem and not choke on it To watch the flag and not the rope To see blue and not see red on black I swear this Afro holds a country a generation a civilization hand me the big comb and the oil get comfortable let me introduce you to all of the history that made home on this Black scalp
Kyndall Flowers is a student at Pioneer and Community High Schools in Ann Arbor.