Audi Ashley Barnes
Audi Ashley Barnes is a poet and essayist whose work interrogates identity—in particular its intersection with race. “Poplar Trees” discusses the near-genetic memory of fear and persecution that Black people experience on even the most innocuous, seemingly beautiful days. What once may have been considered a positive, even peaceful scene, takes on an insidious view when considered in conjunction with the environment’s historical context.
“Pastoral scene of the gallant south”
—Strange Fruit, as sung by Nina Simone
The soil is clotted with magnolias.
Far, a vendor hawks a bag of hairy
peaches while last week’s souring navel
oranges turn black in the lost gutter.
Breathe in that sickly sweetness. Taste it now.
Trip over those twisted roots that prolapse.
Tell your sons that nice old men and good ol’
boys are not. Tell your daughters: avoid both. Stay:
watch branches swing in a sudden gust and watch the
leaves rip free, hang on air itself: an estranged fruit.
(Are you imagining the straining rope?
Are you remembering his red, bare feet?
Taste his mother’s honeyed tears in your tea.)