The Retelling of Power

by Savannah Bowen

They thought they were leaving a dead planet behind. They left and took their pollution out of our air and water, and land. They left and took with them their imperialism, and their prisons, and their exploitation economies. They left, believing that there was no more harvest to gather on this planet, and they spat upon us as they left, flinging dirt into our faces, leaving us to gag on the noxious fumes of their rocket engines. They left and they laughed at us, they left, and they pitied us, they left and shamed us because we were too poor or too black to go with them.

And you know what, baby? They died.

All them shiny Trojan horses galloped right into the stars and burned! The space stations, the convoys, the shuttles and the emergency escape pods, too! Not a single one of them capitalist-ass imperialist-ass, racist-ass, classist-ass, rude-ass mothafuckas is breathing right now!
People telling history over the Signal say those dummies went encroaching too far in an alien territory and got they asses lit up! They were going to spread the gospel; can you believe it? They wanted to bring Jesus Christ to the Milky Way! They left us thinking they were the blessed missionaries of the universe. They were nothing but a plague.

When it all went down your mama was just a lil corn kernel in my belly and all my family was gone. Fires in Canada, where your grandaddy Vesper come from, were pushing oceans of people south. The planet was purging. All the poison of the last world order needed alchemizing. And those of us still living had to contend with the healing of the earth.

Days after the fires erupted, an Earthquake came and destroyed our home in New York, and your grandfather died in the rubble right next to me. I called out to him through the dust, but I barely had enough air to breathe. My legs were crushed, and darkness was all I could see for over a day.

Then Patrice came, lifting sheetrock and letting sun into my sky once more. She was doing that for everybody and didn’t nobody understand how. People say she was possessed for seven days digging niggas out the rubble with her hands and healing them. She dragged me from the dust and fixed my leg with a tincture of Comfrey and rum. And even though she wasn’t really supposed to, she started your granddaddy’s heart back up. It wasn’t ever quite on-beat again, but he was the same sweet, strong man I loved, none of that zombie shit y’all tell. Patrice found his spirit and put it right back in his body almost like new. After that, we knew we had to follow her wherever she was going.

Your mama survived in my belly and that was the third miracle, after Patrice saving me and Vesper coming back to life. Of all the shit, that was the shit that scared me most. I know I’m s’posed to thank the gods that she survived and was healthy and allathat. But one day, the Signal reported the remains of thirty missing children discovered in Tallahassee. At the time we were in a safe house in the Florida Keys, a mansion with a sprawling lawn, waterfront access, and an Olympic sized swimming pool. I had never been to Florida in all my life, but there I was, locked in a bathroom having a breakdown like a Hollywood starlet, my body splayed across white marble floors. I refused to eat or drink. I cradled the taped-up radio in my arms like a newborn and prayed for three days that your mama would die.

On the third day Vesper took an axe to the door. Patrice coaxed a tea down my throat and stripped my body of its soiled clothes. They drew me a bath in the rich people’s abandoned tub and braided my hair into neat rows against my scalp. The three of us laid together in a giant bed, Vesper behind and Patrice in front, me and your mama safe between the two strongest people I know.

What humans called natural disaster was actually the technology of a planet fighting for survival. And we knew our only hope was to shut up, listen, and learn. To understand the pains of the earth and put our hands to the wounds as well. I was always a sensitive girl. You can laugh at that cuz you seen me kill and you seen me walk steady into danger. But to tell it true, I spent most of the revolution crying, baby. I spent most of it with my heart beating fast and my tears watering grounds where rivers could not reach.