In DIG poet Angela Jones, now 24 and on her way to the Peace Corps in Peru, shares with us the identity she has forged for herself from being in and with Detroit Summer since she was 14. It is from imaginations like hers that will come answers to the many fundamental interconnected and demanding questions with which this essay began.
There are forgotten truths in this soil
And I’m going to dig for them
But don’t give me those tools that my brothers used
To extract diamonds from a land
That they once called home
Oh ,no, I’m going to use my hands.
I’ll scar the ground and scrape the stones
Digging for a truth that is buried down deep
Buried with a purpose
I’ll scratch with my nails and punch with my fists
Shaking the earth with their urgent blows
Until I hit some solid surface
The surface of a revelation so true
It’s too true to bear witness to.
These violent secrets unveiled that are dirty
Like t he dust on my knuckles
Angry and clenched in a fretful pose
This earth is not a lake, where I can dip palms in
And let drops drip from my fingertips
No, these secrets are too painful
And the earth is unwilling
So I will make my hands of metal
Digging through the cracked cement to excavate
Finding tombs of wombs that bare the fruit
Of privileged elite
In moth-eaten purple pin-stripe
My destiny is to dig for doubtless truths
Shattering dogmas with jackhammers
And hiding jailhouse files in my raised fist
To file away the bars of steel mines
And copper mines
Freeing ancestors of mine, and y ours
From slavery, indentured servitude,
And minimum wage.
This earth that hides the headlines and hellraisers
Of old revolutions
Is that same earth that bore me into a kingdom
Of corrupt kings and cruel intentions
This institution is not amorous
It knows its sins – now I shall know them, too.
This dirt is soaked with nuclear test sites
Ghetto mounds of grass-covered garbage
Where children run through mutated weeds
This dirt is carried on the wind
Gets in your eyes and blinds you
From the internment camps that were once there
In this soil rests the sullen graves of adobe huts
And in their place grow reservation HUD houses
And welfare cheese
Barrio booze and CIA-sold street crystals
All picked from the same genetically modified tree
Grown in the closet we hide our skeletons in.
The deep, dark depths of the earth
Hide the secrets to shame and bad decisions
What’s fair is often forgotten
And you can’t find freedom from a flag
You have to dig for it.
So dig for your freedom
Fragile figures of history’s failures
Or I’ll dig for you
For those fools of fortune I’ll plow through
The lies and muck of middle-earth
Turning stock shares into ploughshares
Giving campesinos back their poly-cultural crops
I’ll worm my way though the holes in this planet
To other kingdoms and freedoms forgotten
Because t his earth is not rotten
It cleanses itself every other empire
By hands that dig for the truth
Through old tragedies and fallen legacies
We must keep the past in mind and at hand.
To seize that chance to begin anew.