I remember tearing the fibers from the stalk. Remember the rush of warm sweetness and how it lingered on the tip of my tongue. I let it sit there. Just for a minute. Just long enough to let it cover the inside of my mouth, coat it in memories. Grandfather with thick blade cutting thick stalks to bring to anxious mouths. We. Eagerly sucking the juices until the fibers hung dryly from our mouths. Spit.

Remember the taste of sugar.

Let it run down my chin, dripping in sticky, sweet droplets at my feet. The ground is hard here. Too hard to ease my body into. Too hard to forget grandfather’s hunched back as he worked fields of green cane. And I remember with each bite. Remember each brittle thwack thwack of the knife against the cane. Faster. Thwack. Each bite a reminder. Thwack. How this sweetness turns to nothing but thick ropes against my tongue. Thwack. Faster. Each drop against my chin. Again again. Thwack. My hands a fibrous mass of memory. Faster. Thwack. Faster. Breathe.

The hands that cleaned this, chopped this, they ached with the weight of the knife. Ached with the raw skin burned and peeled, the roughness of the flesh. Over and over again. My father’s body didn’t bend like that. His stood like the tall, stiff stalks. Rooted to something earthen, something dark rich cool. His body was made from the land, but not for the land. I watched him work the knife, too. His hands remembering the rhythm. His body bent in silent tribute. My tiny, brown hands reaching for their own remembrance.

Ashawnta Jackson is a former Managing Editor of 12th Street literary journal, and has written for WNYC’s Soundcheck blog, Feet in 2 Worlds magazine, KMHD Jazz Radio’s blog. She is currently an editor at the Parsons Journal for Information Mapping.

feature image via kccornell on Flickr


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