Careful, there’s little difference between the woody surface and the edible veins of the sugarcane. Carve the skin first to reveal the sweet blood that hums in your mouth until you’re chewing the gospel. Don’t swallow Mississippi; it does not belong to you fully, but touching the root is all it takes for the dirt to find your ears, for the music to seed itself into your brain as if you are the ground itself, acres of cotton and cane, rooting your tongue.
* * *
I once visited Mississippi as a child, and all I remember are the fields of grass that rivaled sidewalks. My grandmother and I walked down her childhood street. In New Jersey, she said, headlights are spinning moons. Cars eclipse. But Mississippi was more like a moving tide, the street its shore, rows of cane its sea, and granny its Moses.
* * *
The sugarcane goes silent on the car ride home. Eighteen hours of driving, and not a peep from the stalk that knows my grandfather’s grip.
* * *
During the ride from Mississippi to their new home in New Jersey, Granny, wringing in the passenger seat, asked her young, stubborn husband to stop. She needed to pee. He continued to drive anyway, and she pissed in her seat. Eighteen hours of sitting in her own urine, or maybe an hour or two, before the smell and her voice scattered out the window. When my grandfather died, my grandmother drove home from the funeral and made dinner. She sliced sugarcane. She slept soundly. Granny mourned her husband long enough for a plastic seat cover to regain its mangled shape. Then she made a new one.
* * *
I want my grandmother’s jaw to unhinge and drop. I want her tongue to sing, sweet and sturdy like sugarcane, but the words singe her chest. I fear I’ve inherited her sore throat.
Shonté Daniels is a New Jersey poet currently living in Maryland. She is an editorial associate at Rewire, where she has written about art and culture. Shonté just wants to keep writing.