on a December morning in 1999, after a moontide,
he walks along the water’s edge to the spot where
he use to catch fish & relax. he remembers the creaky
floorboards, the kitchen tiles, & the smell of curry in his home
& how he has a week to pack, after the landlord finally got him out.
he remembers loss. call it ghost. call it an empty
shell of a house. call it bones. call it grief as heavy
as the wet clothes his Jamaican mama used to wash in the river.
call it dead fish entangled in the bushes that lay
along the White River’s embankment with gapping
mouths & gray glossy eyes. did someone take their home
from them, too? & leave their soft bones as evidence?
as warning? call them duppies. call the river
a grave site where his dreams lay with 4 million
fish bobbing along a 50 mile stretch of White
River from Indianapolis to Anderson. newspapers
will call it Indiana’s worst environmental disaster.
he will call it the day he lost his home & all it’s glory,
with a loud drumming heartbeat watching his hopes
sink & wade to the bottom of the river, mourning
new stories never to come.
after Dance of Myal by Maurice Broaddus for
the character Pap
Chantel Massey (she/her) is a storyteller, poet, author, teaching artist, editor, organizer, educator, practicing Afrofuturist, and avid anime lover from Indiana. Massey is a fellow of The Watering Hole, VONA poetry resident, and has received support from Brooklyn Poets, Hurston/Wright Foundation, and Tin House. She is a 2023 Best of Net Award winner and 2020 Indiana Eugene and Marilyn Glick Author Awards Emerging Author finalist for her first collection of poetry, Bursting At The Seams (VK Press, 2018), a Midwest Black girl coming of age story. Massey founded the literary arts organization, UnLearn Arts, radically dedicated to amplifying and cultivating the craft and wellness of BIPOC writers in the Midwest and elsewhere.
Massey’s work advocates for wellness, human rights, and social justice. She explores their depth with confessional poetry through themes of Blackness, identity, Afrofuturism, memory/archive, familial relationships, the process and act of giving up self- betrayal, and the riot of Black joy. Massey is on a life-long mission, through poetry and the transformative power of storytelling, to make the pursuit and vision of what has not yet been, irresistible, to inspire curiosity, and challenge how we engage with the world. Her work can be found featured in IndianapolisReview, Turnpike Magazine, and other online and print publications coming elsewhere. To learn more about her and her work visit www.chantelmassey.com .
(Photo credit: Cliff Canon)