You, the guide of Sherman
in his misguiding;
You sweep through the Southland,
letting your floody waters
die in the marshy seedbeds
of our history.
Beside your banks, I stand mute,
our shared story
hidden in this hollow shell,
one of many in a land of Fallen Houses.
Where is my Black Pride?
Where the heritage I barely began to share?
I am a fallen house,
beside a red clay back road to nowhere;
edifice to nothing.
Splitting clapboards shriek what used to be—
experience within my innards
that I dare not revive.
Resurrection is too dear a price
if I live again the nightly terrors
of a not-so-genteel South.
I am a Fallen House
sinking now where once I rose;
on whose reddened Southern Road
bare black feet once tread,
finding in their measured pace,
the path of Sabbath respite.
A century past, obedient voices rang out:
Yes Suh, Boss! No Suh Massa!
Today, the kudzu of society,
hastens to bury me;
left for the curious to view
beneath the vine-blanket
that disguises and deceives,
covering over the boiling pot of mid-century.
Once, an artist of itinerant way
paused across the field of cottoned stalks,
bent-angled chocolate brown,
where from unfolded easel he captured
the shattered shutter
that now hangs askew across
the darkened window of my soul;
a broken testimony to errant aim,
convicting in long absentia,
an unknown nightrider’s folly.
Alas, the oil-dabber came and departed,
(I being but a moment’s diversion)
He saw me with closed eyes
and came no closer to explore
my inner spaces,
sweeping me, instead, into his own image
with the broad strokes of his brush,
and leaving me behind, collapsing in neglect.
The time of Coming is past.
The days of leaving are gone.
When did my soul empty of its heritage?
When did this rusting tin roof
loose the spirit of my people?
Who emptied my guts of the halcyon aroma of being;
of the joyful kitchened heart
where my black mother soothed away the tears
of childhood lost?
I am a Fallen House,
testimony to those left behind
in the floodwaters of disharmony;
sinking, just short of the Shining River’s bank;
replaced by subsidized concrete,
desperate nests more hollow than I,
where the sterility of Styrofoam
hides even the cold that once I shared.
The fire inside has nowhere to go.
The dream was built, brick by brick,
by those who refused to sit behind.
The dream birthed a flame that lit the way
in its spiraling search for Freedom;
but the surging Son was too soon gone,
the Dream fading again to darkness,
where safety returns in being unseen.
Behind the daring, beyond the Dream,
the bricks decay one by one,
turning to rose-powder that drifts unnoticed
to join the fallow fields of history,
where I remain stroked and smothered,
smoking and choking,
in the dampened embers of my dream.
I am a Fallen House,
emptied of root and essence;
yet willing even now
to trade my singular hopes gladly,
to bring fruition from the past;
to savor the sustenance of full victory.
I stand in weathered testimony
of an unfinished history,
a dream disturbed by a short-lived awakening,
and cry out yet once more;
It has passed! It is past!
But out there, beyond the dying currents
that trickled across the land;
out there, past the silent sentinels
of untended pompous grass
guarding my jumbled entranceway,
(left ajar in the too-hasty adolescence
of a new nation’s journey)
out there – – –
a hundred urban ghettos mock my cry!