Two Works for Juneteenth by Cori Sims
I am . . .
More like an eclipsed sun, I am
Shade under a tree
The stout beer in your gullet
A mouth of a cave
The skin of the polar bear
Ever present, inescapable
Behind your eyes
I began in your mother’s womb
And will swallow you with delight
In your end
No thing is beyond my reach
Above the clouds and stars
Or deep in the cracks of the mind
I hold no fear
All I must do is
Know Thyself to be Seen
A conversation last week with a dear friend revealed a door, a chance to expand a philosophical concept and apply it to Juneteenth, the recently nationalized commemoration of the militia event that drove the federal mandate to free enslaved persons in the resistant state of Texas. On the phone with this friend, a fellow creative wizard and recent graduate, I revealed wonderful news about a client referral I had for her which led to her requesting me to assist with its preparation. I praised her for knowing what she needed, for exposing her professional and personal weaknesses in order to receive help. “It takes courage to be confident while managing fears,” so I told her. In turn, she recognized my wisdom and service to our friendship, and the sensation of being seen filled me. How wonderful is it to think my whole life, and life before me, had to happen the way it did in order to receive unsought validation of my efforts? I wasn’t born wise; I earned it. Every detour, wrong turn, lesson, scar, surprise, and loss are not stamped on my skin like the tattoo of my ex-boyfriend’s name. This gift of being seen by my friend, her testimony of my support, is directly related to one of the eldest wisdoms and truths of humanity: Know thyself.
“Know thyself” is a personal and equally collective process to know what has occurred and so grant us the chance to look around and survive, even thrive. History plays a vital role in this remembrance as a stage on which humans have interacted for millenniums. And we have danced; we have killed; we have sung; we have learned; we have cried — together. I find we forget how events in history affect us all and not in the same way nor at the same time. Juneteenth, for example, memorializes a high-ranking soldier assuming an unpopular decision for people who needed help. It does not memorialize the strife, struggle, and brutality witnessed and ignored for so long. Undeniably, on that day terror was confronted, not resolved. We cannot place the cart before the horse in a process of healing that takes work, patience, knowledge, and honesty. Brutal honesty. I believe everyone desires the experience to be understood on this stage of history, which requires knowing yourself – every supernatural, naughty, painful, delightful, nasty, quirky, unique thing. My recent lineage did not receive kindness from a society that did not see the imprinted unseen scars, injuries, blisters, and more it left on children as an unintentional inheritance. We all do what we know until we know better.
Starting to know myself exposed planted poisons of mistrust, hardness, rage, sadness, sorrow, and, most of all, confusion. Peace can be stolen, freedom can be disrupted, but neither for eternity. Brutal realities of enslavement are long gone, so why must I hold on to them? Is it not more courageous, wise, and helpful to confront and transform ugliness than to become it?
Cori Sims is an emerging writer from Central Florida, working to contribute works of poetry, memoir, and screenplay to the existing, timeless literary universe.
Featured image courtesy of the Dallas Morning News.