Shame brought me here nearly fifty years ago;
But that shame was not entirely mine
and never will be.
I carried its stink away north
in hopes of protecting some young relations, but
by heredity some things are lifelong chains, and
some would say, so is my sun-tolerant skin.
Not wearing the same chains, some bared their teeth at mine,
while others plugged their noses at the sight of me, and still
others waited patiently for night, to separate me & mine from life.
Altogether it makes me shiver to remember, and today, as black
as the road is, and as stupid as some believe it to be,
tell me why the road, without question, accepts me, and
why it instructs me?
The road teaches the falsity of ends;
It taught me that the way out doubles
as the way in. And it taught me that
some roads are marked and paved,
while others you cut the track; And
wherever you leave, you may return,
albeit in an altered state.
The road taught me courage to choose my way —
That I may be first to bend the grass, but
would not be the last, because later on
others will find the bent spikes.
The road I took punished bare feet by night and day
when tar bubbles popped in the heat and comfort was
that thick white stripe winding through the blacktop
to remind me mile after mile what division looks like,
in case I’d forgotten that segregated town — that
no place to raise your kids; that keep them down and
stuff shame like cotton in their mouths town I left.
Remembering it, some nights, not a wink passes
without men with rifles that have me in the crosshairs,
reducing the over 800 miles that separate me and the crows;
But it reminds me to stay alert, to watch out for that night,
or noon the road may again be red with the blood of my blood,
and momma, poppa, sister, brother, cousin,
preacher, or friend, may be threatened.
The road I took guarantees nothing,
so ready I watch, and I hope these kids will
be wiser than their old kin, next time around.