Methadone – Sean Flood

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Illustration by Shreya Malpani

The irons snap like fish

leaping on land; one day I

shall be a lark and speak

my name; one day the Igbo

fingers shall claw at the wood

 

like whispers; give me a breeze;

take me to a land with only

sand. One day the irons shall

burn my skin like larks chirping on

deck. Teach me to fear the

 

rain tracing a path down the

knots of my back; what are laws

if not shackles to drown under

like a world with only sand; take

this brand and sear my flesh

 

with it. Put these grains of sand

in your palm; teach me to fear

god; teach me to hate these fearsome

black hands and this black tongue;

teach me to hate these lips made

 

to drink the black earth; take me

to Charles Towne; take me far from

the rivulets drinking from the land

like a man buried in the legs of

a woman; take me to a land that

 

whispers: “The people do not dwell

here anymore. They’ve all gone.”

Toss me into the sea and let

me sink like a lode; teach me

to fear the touch of the earth

 

upon the bottoms of my feet like

witches heaping me with curses.

Forbid me from heaven but let me

be born again in chains; what is a

dollar but a distraction in

time; teach me the words in

this good book; take me to

Richmond, Virginia; teach

me to be a slave forever; teach

me to hate these Yoruba marks upon

 

my face. I thought the sail of

the ship was like a land with

no rain. I thought this stolen

land was like a whale snatched

from the sea; they say this land

 

is rich from Indian blood, it bathes

the land like a river. They say

Indian tears are like a kiss from

a god or perhaps a pat on the shoulder.

There used to be a river here but it

 

was drunk up; the Negroes drank it

until it was dry; they were dying

of thirst; they said: “Come and

see this land where the maize grows

so high you could climb to heaven,”

 

but all I saw were Igbo clawing at

the walls of the ship. I feel the

irons about my throat like being

hit in the head with a book; I hear

this foreign name like an endless stream

 

of curses bathing in sand; step into

the river and wash the sand and

the curses from your feet. The

thirst comes to me in the night

like a god dying on land; how many

 

years would it take to fill this

Indian lake with tears so I might drown;

I hear the cries of the Igbo and the

Yoruba like larks falling into the

sea. If you are born in a world

 

with no rain remember what rain

tastes like; remember that the touch

of the sun upon your back is like

being marked by a witch, but the

African kind of witch, a sort of

 

doctor. I hear the rain like fish

whispering on land; what is a

dollar but a distraction from the

pain that is Virginia; what does it

mean to be alive in a world with no

 

rain? Take these fifty bodies and bury

them deep, they are slaves that have

died; kiss the knots of my back; “Pick

this cotton and pick it good,” they

said. Turn my hands and see my sand-

 

filled callouses. Thank god for these

sorrows; speak my name, my Yoruba

name that cuts like a knife; teach

me to remember the rain; one day I

shall be a lark and speak my name.

Sean Flood is an African-American writer and poet living in New York City. His writing examines the experience of the Middle Passage. He self-published his first novel in 2016.