We brought it over
roiling in our mouths,
etched on tongues, many languages.
We picked up new beats
as we walked miles, far
from home, disturbing
woods with our chains.

Whatever you call it,
we picked up new
beats along the bloodied sand
that clung to the bottoms
of our feet as we were
herded aboard.
New rhythms held us
crushed together,
bewildered by the
ocean’s swell, its boom,
crash, and setting down

Sundays, New Orleans,
Congo Square—we created music
using instruments our hands designed.
We composed a jubilant sound
from a rhyme and a word,
from the fields of our common sorrow,
from the big house where we learned
the shuffle we turned into a strut.

Those Sunday afternoons
we improvised are now
our Sunday’s for snapping fingers,
clapping hands and stomping feet
until jubilation reaches
back home,
some pain still
roiling in our mouths.

Patricia A. Ward
from her book Three Poets in New Orleans
Xavier Review Press, 2000

used with permission of the poet

Comments are closed.