In the year of ratification--the first slip--
Toward more perfect union:
1789: “We’ll count them as three-fifths,
Human, just so long as we can keep them:
Trade them, own them.”
Just don’t let them be whole people.
Ushering in an era of good feelings--slip two--
Structured, equivocal, stalemated:
1820: “Maine and Missouri may enter,
Compromised, we’ll keep ours, you keep yours:
Protect and harbor them.”
Just don’t let them be free people.
Proclaimed emancipated, free--slip three--
Black, Blue bruised; grey, bloodied:
1863: “Slaves are free from confederates’
Shackles, to wander the wilderness, still second-
Just don’t let them be equal people.
Reconstructed nation, union--slip knot--
Strange fruits dangle,
Jim Crow’s century of
Intimidation paved with
Bags of carpet:
Un-shared cropping, serfdom,
Motives peculiar still,
Whistle walking culture
Just don’t let them feel safe in our midst.
Separated and supposedly equal--slick-slipped--
Boxcars and balconies and schoolyards:
1896: “Segregate for their own simple sakes’,
Let them build our cities, fight our enemies:
We’ll hollow out, ghettoize.”
Just don’t let them taste liberty amongst us.
Barrier-break, integrate, educate--sixth slip--
Universities, city squares, classrooms:
1954: “We’ll abandon our buses and chalkboards
To them, we’ll incite them and watch
Them burn from our burbs.”
Just don’t let them rise up a King to martyr.
Dreaming in resistant peace,--slip seven--
Technicolor spirituals exalt:
1968: “We will break civility’s heart, quiet
The hymns, reassert our mastery of
Others’ pieces, peace-purses.”
Just don’t let them reside in our Whitest House.
Post-race mirage, well-heeled half-sy--slip eight--
Doomed to succeed, to spite:
2008: “America held hostage by the future,
By the fierce urgency of now,
Remind them who they are, who they aren’t.”
Just don’t let them slip into our everyday.
We see the slope, and we slip a little farther,
A little nearer the past, begging for healing
From three-fifths wounds still infected,
From brothers and sisters circumspect:
A little nearer that day, strong and whole
From mounts and cliffs made level:
From the rash where slopes become:
Ninth-slip-teeming, fertile meadows.
Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com