Everywhere I travel in Virginia,
Virginia is marked
by the desires and taking of my people.
Here is the river they took
from the first people—and here
and here is exactly where they
held other people captive.
And here my people’s names are the names
of islands and roads and schools and towns
in celebration of my people’s acts
of taking and taking and raping
Libraries and historical societies and museums
and houses in memory and that they claimed as honor.
This is where, in the poem,
I say that I am descended
from these motherfuckers:
Here. And here.
Each line and stanza.
_____ and bar.
The daughter of a war refugee, Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007). She is co-founder and for 10 years was Executive Director of Split This Rock. An Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, she is the recipient of the 2019 Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award, as well as fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Yaddo, Mesa Refuge, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Adirondack Center for Writing. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and Poetry magazine. For 13 years, Browning curated and co-hosted the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. In the fall of 2019 she begins the MFA program in poetry and creative nonfiction at Rutgers University in Camden.
Image: “At the corner of Garner Street and Ferguson Avenue” by ©Chuck Miller