A Toast, to the Enslaved and to the Free by Maurya Kerr

To your twilight, tooth and eye,
to the listening of trees, to limbs.

To the beaten and not,
the swing that stops,
to a son’s mouth shoved full of his own cut parts,
bound shut, shut.

To the cotton boll who knew only to bloom, surprised to soak up blood.
To the whip and rope whose prayers were lost
in the noise and shame of their misuse.

To shelter that seldom was,
to rivers that swallowed your scent,
your scent.

To the stacked as spoons who learned to be knives,
to scabs tried to stay but forced to go,
to scars grown into maps that say: this
is the way, go there, go there.

To gust and beast that licked your umber skin.

O, bless each creature I have loved, still love.
And Lord, blessed be a blessed speed for the mama whose child
was wakened only to be put dead again,

This world so bright, bright.


Maurya Kerr is a bay area-based writer, educator, and artist. Much of her artistic work, across disciplines, is focused on Black and brown people reclaiming their birthright to wonderment. Maurya’s poetry appears in multiple journals, has been nominated for a Pushcart prize, and was recently chosen by Jericho Brown as runner-up in Southern Humanities Review’s 2021 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize. Maurya is currently a UC Berkeley ARC (Arts Research Center) Poetry & the Senses Fellow.