Murkiness in the West

by Justin Davis

“This the American black man knows: his fight here is a fight to the finish. Either he dies or wins….There can be no compromise. This is the last great battle of the West.” —W.E.B. Du Bois

The West is where the sun takes our value each night. I learned this from my grandpa,
who’s gone, and he learned it from one of his grandmas, who’s gone: the one who never left
Mississippi, who walked miles each morning with weights of water on her head. I thought there
was a drought until I found out someone sold her the water. I’m thirsty these days, and my
money’s flown away. I have nothing left to offer but my teeth, and I won’t. You know how white
folks love to imagine them shining through a cold, inhuman dark? I whisper behind the wall
of my mouth: That glow’s too goddamn bright, turn it down. I mean, aren’t you tired of doing
the sun’s work for free?

Look, everything’s murky in the West—even a raindrop won’t run clear. There’s a hole in my
history I don’t know how to fill. And when I think about the future, shit, I don’t see anything.

Justin A. Davis is a culture and politics writer, poet, and former grassroots organizer. You can find his poems in places like Protean MagazineANMLYBreakwater Reviewwildness, and Apogee Journal. He’s published essays with ScalawagPost-TrashScience for the People, and Labor Notes. He’s been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and the Pushcart Prize, and he was a finalist for Tinderbox Poetry’s Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Prize. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.