The fields of Rolesville belong to my kinfolk, dead and alive.
I told my uncle’s ghost
don’t waste your time haunting white folks who owe you money,
we all have different ways
we come to know red clay.
I began in fields near pines where we laughed and fired fish.
If someone were to sing, it would grow through each ghost
and be heard as geese crossing overhead.
The dead only know
the work they have done.
I’ve never had to work cotton or tobacco
or pull small green worms from my hands. I only played
in harvested fields, in one I’d be in Harlem—
a whole row my block, the oak way off a skyscraper
I looked up into for myself.
When people let the cotton sleep there were no vacations,
I don’t know if my great-great-grandparents ever saw the ocean,
or fell asleep on the beach.