… a human body would not make it
           to the seafloor intact

      

                      *

      

               NO LOITERING  
               IN THE WATER

        

                           They whisper like fish. The police  
                           in schools like fish

    

the atoms of the people who were thrown overboard—

                         

                      *

Sometimes my lungs feel like stones  
in the hypnagogic hour—that watery room  
between wakefulness & sleep

  

                      *

  

The faint formation of land in the distance—

that’s when horror struck  

            in the mind of the African

                   

                      *

         

    abovedeck—the moment just before

our African       became               -American  

  

                      *

  

… out there in the ocean even today.
Hidden in the language

in the pelagic tunnels. Narrow corridor  
           of attention. Fish whisper

  

                      *

  

They avoid our shadows  
like fish. Ghosts in schools  
like fish. Police in schools—

  

             NO LOITERING  
            IN OUR HISTORY

  

                                 “. . . we talk like fossils  
                            in this country . . .”  

                        

                       *

  

The amount of time it takes  
for a substance to enter  
the ocean and then leave  
the ocean is called residence
time

                        

                       *

                                    those who took the ocean  

                                                 as their home, murmurous

                                    as my footsteps

  

                        *

     

Standing midnight at the Atlantic harbor  
I hear the fishermen  
yelling to one another out on the water

       

where they’ve just noticed                     the sea beginning to part

a corridor of murdered         Africans     million-ghost-marching

to Wall Street

  

                        *

We were always white folks’ white whale.

           Ain’t that some shit?

    

  


Next: Read Anna Deavere Smith on being one of the first Black students at a small women’s college.