by Chandra D. Bhimull

How does the sky bleed? Slowly. She bleeds slowly, until she doesn’t.

She is whole again. All this foolishness about skies is done. Her people and some persons have taken down what states had no business pluralizing and putting up there in the first place. Crafted, national and imperial borders carved and mapped her. They hacked her into what seemed like seamless, almost invisible geopolitical bits. Their poisonous drained-of-color vapor trails – those vanishing streaks of shit – proudly betrayed them, like History. In case you missed it: she is black, and that was white flight.

This is sky travel. This is her plane. First, we are not in her. We are on her. Second, we are not airborne. We are born of the sky. Third, air travel, which was always over, is dead. As sky travelers, we are up: we are awake. We do not move above what is below us. Rather, we fly alongside those who come across grounded. We rise with those who had sailed. Together, we carry on. Specified, in default of specification, we go unpacked. Ancestral knowledge and not the pursuit of linear progress is our fuel. It is, of course, jet black.

You board the skycraft last. You walk to the end of the aisle. You take by abolishing what you think of as your seat. Already seated, we watch you. We ignore you. We do not move out of your way. We know it is uncomfortable. We feel you. Before reparations flights took off, your desire to define and avoid discomfort had long circumscribed the conditions of our uncomfortableness. So, yes, we get it. We got you. Unlike you, we always have been all ready. We know to feel you – even when we don’t feel to know you.

You get tickets. There is one type of sky travel ticket. It has two sides. One side has a price. The other, a life. Neither costs a thing. There is no debt, which is not because it is forgiven, forgotten, or a not for nothing. It is because your interests no longer matter. The bill of your loaded sales is unpayable, as are those for what generations of you have purchased. You cough up what we had to swallow. Our value, your worth.

A reparations flight is what it is not: dialectical. It is a skyline. It is a landline too. It is turbulent, though what came before was never smooth. Here is now, there will be, and there was then. They tether your arrival to our departures with their differences in tense.

The skycraft takes off and levels out. Windows side the fuselage. They are tall, wide, uninterrupted, and clear. We, which at this moment includes you, look out of them. There is no personal in-flight entertainment system to separate and distract us. The pandemic rid us in the sky of our individual surfaces, from electronic screens and reading materials to pillows, blankets, and other cultural accoutrements for sleep. Now we see what we must. We do.

We watch the rerouting. Where the skycraft’s shadow falls, indigenous lands turn up. A live, almost transparent flight map etches into as it stretches across the windows wrapped around us. The georeality it graphs contorts as we pass, like skin. The lands given names, as well as the proper name that you gave it, appear on the map. They manifest. The forenames unearth the historical significance of the surnames. The first names uproot the rotted roots of each last. Then, they dislodge it. Unapologetically and without apostrophe.

We fly on. You let go. They are not ours to take.

Cite as: Bhimull. Chandra D. 2020. “How Does the Sky Bleed?” In “Post-Covid Fantasies,” Catherine Besteman, Heath Cabot, and Barak Kalir, editors, American Ethnologist website, 25 August 2020, [https://americanethnologist.org/panel/pages/features/pandemic-diaries/post-covid-fantasies/how-does-the-sky-bleed/edit]

Chandra D. Bhimull teaches in African American Studies and Anthropology at Colby College.