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Freedom at Sunrise.

Freedom at Sunrise
(Dedicated to Lenard D. Moore and Evie Shockley)

 November morning turns jubilee
 when black-velvet night retreats
 like rope-pulleyed curtains parting.
 Sun rises red then yellows,
 flickers along the treeline,
 covers Carolina cottonfields
 before harvest.

 Raised like battle swords against the "big house,"
 silver rays illuminate the six-acre lawn
 tended by an icon preserved from days past,
 the slump-shouldered man
 whose aging brown face bows
 in twenty-first-century obedience,
 as he rakes leaves beneath my shuttered window.

 In this antique room
 with cane-bottom chairs, drop-leaf tables
 four-poster canopied bed,
 I've kept fitful sleep,
 burned lamps like torches on tabletops
 amidst whisper sounds,
 death clocks ticking, ticking,
 as ghosts stocking-footed their way
 along the spiral staircase
 just beyond my door, locked,
 a chair jammed beneath the knob.

 On the evening past,
 this plantation house revealed dark secrets,
 specters rapping against outside doors.
 An apparition floating through passageways.
 A thin-haired old man
 wearing a long white night shirt,
 come back from the grave, no doubt,
 bothered that free-born nigras
 are guests here, seated and served at a table
 once reserved for those privileged
 to decide fates through bills-of-sale
 drawn up and signed
 over dishes prepared by Negro cooks.

 Strong like our holy-oiled hands,
 three poets, invited,
 we will speak poems into autumn air.
 Without knowing the history,
 yet imagining horrors
 tangled around this homestead,
 we let words settle into ears listening,
 as we step through stanzas
 filled with blues and jazz,
 romance in England and France,
 memories of Martin and Malcolm,
 quilts and stories about homeplaces
 far from this place.

 Summoning spirits:
 calloused-palm field hands,
 wet nurses and house negresses,
 backs bloodied at whipping posts,
 we strip limbs from hanging-trees,
 read out rights of passage,
 walk towards freedom
 in a throng.

L. Teresa Church is a playwright, freelance writer, arts consultant, quiltmaker, and poet. She resides in Durham, North Carolina.
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Article Details
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Author:Church, L. Teresa
Publication:African American Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Previous Article:Holy-Oiled Fingers.
Next Article:Preface.

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