Excerpt from The Color of Grass is Less Green – Act One/Scene One
Act One – Scene One
Scene: A City Street.
A woman stands beneath a street light apart from the crowd of angry protesters holding signs and pushing against one another. She stands apart, quiet, hands turned upward, palms toward moonless night sky. Police stand facing her – but she does not move. She is still, almost as if carved from stone, until she speaks and the tears are barely perceptible – glistening on her face beneath the singular street lights – her voice rises against the steady hum of discontentment and anger coming from the crowd she has separated herself from. She is dressed in a long dress and flat shoes, she appears more prepared for a summer picnic than a protest.
I don’t know how I have arrived here. I am just here to bear witness. I figured if I showed up here, hands empty – mouth closed, I could be a witness to my life – to another life. Just see me, look at me and of course, I reasoned – you could never kill another, not having looked at me – not having born witness to humanity. This is the reasoning of a mother. I figured that these police would see that black skin is not armor, it yields – gives way metal intentioned on destruction.
All yesterday, my head ached. I had to leave work and lay down – my eyes were almost swollen shut…this is all before I knew. That’s a whole day of pay gone. All before I was a witness, there was indeed a before…funny… (Laughs sardonically) …there was a before…this shit is like a collective after life, a purgatory for black folks – aint that were the Catholics say some go – a place between heaven and hell. Just seems like there is hell where there is no rest.
(Steps forward) – I know you saw what I witnessed.
Him slumped against a seat. Shirt bloodied and her, calm and praying with her eyes and hands clamped on the steering wheel. I bore witness and went back to sleep. What the fuck is this on Facebook, I thought? And this is bullshit… it’s too early for bullshit – but it was early morning and I was not prepared for the worn truths of living. I assumed he lived and this was some world star hip hop bullshit. More Love and Hip Hop propaganda. How the fuck did I fall back to sleep after seeing that..shit.
I saw him only once. Did I see him wrestle for life? Reaching trembling hand to recapture himself, to pull his spirit back into his body – did I glimpse a battle of before and after or did I see birth and death collide?
For sure, I thought or imagined this was a mistake or that at least, surely he had lived. I don’t know how I have arrived here. Feet just took from my bed..from my work..to here.
As Protester 1 Speaks, another woman emerges from the shadows, a protest sign held limply at her side – to stand with this one woman. She stands quietly beside her, she drops the sign at their feet and also turns her hands upward – she whispers into the ear of Protester 1. Together they face the Police Officers, who remain stoic – silent, they too are carved from Stone.
How you going to prove you alive to the Dead? What is more a testament to life, dying in front of a man? You think standing here silent is louder than blood splashed against the inside of a car, spattered on the face of his daughter. You think they going to listen to you….we not here for that… we here to take …
Protester 1 – Take what? Our lives back? Can they breathe life into our dead? We can’t take shit. That’s the point. But we can been seen with life in us.
Protestor 2 – They seen life in us. You think they killing Zombies – they seen life in us.
They are too afraid of us to listen. They don’t listen. Why do you bother? Why do we bother to appeal in this manner? We have our dead to worry about, to send into the next life. We have our dead marking our paths, tombstones mark the freedom trail and have led us to here. We should leave.
Protester 1: Leave? I won’t leave. I grew here in this spot and this place. I’ll be damned to try and explain how I got here other than I grew from this tar as black as me, as worn as me, as broken as me. Should they not see our faces? If we are silent and show the palms of our hands – show that we bear witness to life, these lines from thumb to pink evidences we come from a womb, we rested beneath hearts and drew first breaths just as they. We are not magic or myth – we are real.
I want them to see us – just as this. See we are human. We are of flesh and blood. We are Christ. Take ye notice and do this in remembrance of our first breathes – the hearts we have rested beneath – the first cries – the grasp towards our own souls, the reach executed to save ourselves.
Protester 2: You think your poetry will save us, you think they will remember your face in the end? You think we are more than a sea of black faces. They have been trained to see past your face, my face – we don’t imprint on lens nor are we captured by the flash of synapse connected to neuron. Let’s walk away, before someone is standing for us and soon forgetting us. Someone gotta tell the story…you just another face in this crowd. I am here and I don’t know why either…just come with me.
Protester Two begins to pull the arm of Protester One to come away with her, the sounds of the crowd are rising above them. There are warning shouts that the police are coming.
Protestor 1 – Then how will we honor our dead? I come with you and how will we honor our dead?
Shall we gather the bodies of our dead together?
Shall we anoint their heads with sacred oils and press coins into their battered palms for passage fare to the other side? Shall we kiss fingertips still marked with bloody testament to the path of least resistance? Have they paid enough or is there further debt and indignities to be suffered?
Why you here then? Why you come out here..to pull me back. You going to pull me from the afterlife?
Protestor 2 (leans forward and wearily picks up her protest sign) – My mother says, the dead need not our help. The dead care for the dead.