Manuela Arciniegas

Manuela Arciniegas is an Afro-Dominican drummer, healer priestess, dollmaker, poet in the making, and social justice warrior. She writes songs and words that are spirit messages from her ancestors, and invitations into collective consciousness for the world. Mother of 4, funder, teaching artist, ethnomusicologist in the making, she has performed with the all-women’s band she founded Legacy Women, everywhere from Lincoln Center to South Bronx community gardens. Music is medicine and life, and the words of aché, fueled by fire and cooled by the river —run through her.

Abuela Rain...

Crinkly warm eyes
Sashay of cotton sandals
Calves half dressed
By purple satin Nightgowns.

Warm tea
Cinnamon sticks
In rice and milk and sugar,
Delicious concoctions
Made only for nice girls.

Jesus hovering over the altar
And the flickering flame
Of a candle
Blessed in ancient Vodoun Thought
before a Christian prayer
Your heart of peace bridged the divide.

Your presence felt
Behind me.
I cook and remember you
As raindrops whisper the message on asphalt--
God is good and baptizes everything,
Anytime he wants.
We at his mercy like babies
Picked up and put down.
Changed, repositioned.
Water from above soaks us.

Nature's night envelops our tinyness
And your presence
Within me
Soothes my temples,
And I feel ancient like you,
Like your grace
Like your victory over single motherhood
Like your Dambala
Like Your "I ain't never alone, always accompanied."

Like me: By you.

----------------------------------------------- // ---------------------------------------------------------


Covid deaths in hospital wings,
Last goodbye over facetime,
Confirming our dead over email jpeg,
The march to the edge of the cliff.

Black tears on display
In the palm of their hands
They squeeze our sisters’ wombs
And rewind our time
Back to fields full of slaves
And cotton babies
Born unwhole, Condemned

Can't sit in this box
Four walls of despair
Our feet are our wings.
First they march then they fly
Our rage a bloodcry
Anxious unsleep

Tea, Incense
Tears that sting
I pray.
Can’t rest
Your darkness is forming the eye of the storm
My breath is suspended
in between exhales
in a chokehold

Heart thumps in my chest--
Return me my dead!
Return them alive

BECAUSE He is lamb
They are fruit
And ebony
And warmth
Father is rock
And bastion of love
My Walking stick.
Without them
        We are falling, falling, falling..

Your splicing and dicing
Machine of horror
Cut up and torn meat
And the string of life
That pours through it
       Is dripping,
And tattered
And scattered
      Laid plain.

Sorrow is our halo
Resistance tears truth
Your Salacious eyes
Hungry tattooed skin
A Pale disguise
Of Innocence
Flaming bright with your red hot hate.

The ancestors have spoken
Give us the land back!
You had our people in body bags
in hospital hallways
long conveyor belts of human sacrifice..
No money for PPE,
While Wall street profit multiplied exponentially--
Release our living.

Come down to your knees
And Writhe over in birthing pain
Crack open.
Push forth a humanity
Locked away
In maga rallies, ballot lies
confetti that's submerged your soul.

Crash open and be greeted by
The majestic, echoing souls of
our Middle Passaging.

Fill your lungs
with our Howling grief
Our Recalibrating Rage--
& Welcome…
to the Satisfying
Folds of our Return.

Our Dead will rise from the Water
and Walk on Land.
They will live again and tell the story
of your Drowning into Reckoning
and Our return to existence.

Let your reckoning begin...

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