by Ismail Muhammad

What did they say? It is impossible to know what they said. Would they have said it like we do? Maybe that’s more productive? How to say blood spilled from popped flesh? Blood spilled from gone limbs. Dried blood from voided flesh. We can’t say.

There was this bell in my family’s living room for the longest, longest time. Mom said it was from a plantation, and I believed because it was rusty. Rust says truth, right? She said one day, “A word of advice for the future? It’ll do you good to sit in front of that thing every once in a while. Just think about it. What it means, where it comes from.” So I did, even though it terrified me to do so. When I was bold I would reach up to the piano where it sat, and I would ring it, but I couldn’t look over my shoulder afterwards.
Never look over your shoulder afterwards.
Ismail Muhammad is a doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley.