Photo by Ife Williams

They drive up and down with dump

trucks and shovels, the hole so deep,

they disappear below the surface at the bottom.

When they dynamite to break up

the granite, you can feel it under your feet.

Thirty feet deep and forty feet long,

they bore under the corner of the parking

lot to meet the thirty by thirty foot hole

next to the front door.

All in the name of progress.

Birthday Party

In the yard, the four year old bounced and bounced and


She stopped to eat and bounced, bounced and

bounced some more.

In the house, her newborn sister ate and slept

and slept in the arms that passed her along

to the next waiting arms.

Mac and cheese, potato salad and baked

beans. Hot dogs, sausage and hamburgers.

Chips and fruit. Cookies, a purple barbie

cake and ice cream cups.

Playing cards, smoking, talking, remembering

other days. Waiting for the next

birth. Bouncing, bouncing, bouncing.


I have no immigration stories, passenger lists, passports or names
for my people brought to the United States from Africa.
There is no oral history of the forced march to the fort on Bunce Island, of the Middle Passage or slave ships docked outside Charleston or auction blocks where neighbors and family were split up. No names, no pictures, no recipes or celebrations.

“I give and devise to my beloved wife Jemima Cleage for and during her natural life the following described negro slaves – to wit: … Juda and her five children  to wit: Charles, Angelen, Lewis, Laura and Frank. I also give and bequeath to her for her natural life a negro man called Frank the husband of Juda…” 

I have no photographs, no stories. Nobody’s memories. Just these bones with names. I read the Will over and over until I fell it inside of me. I see my cousins faces, my children’s faces. My grandchildren. All descended from these two people – Frank and Juda Cleage and their son, Lewis. I wish I could see their faces, knew their stories, that someone had remembered.