Painting by Danny Doughty.

Down the Shore
By Laura Sharon

If you stay perfectly still and silent
you can hear their cries of anguish and pain
clamor from deep within the forest in the dark of night.
It is in the tamped down wet leaves of
the path that has been worn — ever so slowly —
by every single step,
every silent heave of the chest that has
come and gone.
Persistent hope fuels the
yearning for freedom,
for a vision of what is possible.
They risk all there is,
all they love,
all that connects them to what they know
in their guttural search to be free
Untethered
Unchained
Unshackled from ‘yes’m” and “yessir.”

Signs of the heroine, Harriet,
line parts of the trail that
cars of party-goers and beach-lovers now
whiz by without a care.
Not knowing, not wanting to see.
How little has changed.
The sign with her name and a museum in her memory are visible
but our white skin,
our privilege,
keeps us from knowing,
from seeing
how little has changed
with the passage of time.

In Field of Dreams
the mammy opens her arms
embracing our children
with every breath of her soul because her life depends on it.
And while looking to the horizon
her apron blows —
A vision among the crops while
her toiling song cleaves the breeze.
She expands and contracts like a bellows
stoking a roaring fire.

The crackle of gunfire pops
in the distance
and we all hold our collective breath.
Whose son or daughter or mother or father were they?
What story will the lynching tree leave behind?
Will we hear it? See it? Stop it?
How is it that we see or hear the cries and anguish and death as “other?”
What keeps our white skinned privilege silent?
What will it take for us
To act?
To do something to stop
This madness?
Hundreds of years
of agony and torture and terror
moaning beneath the crunch of
wet leaves under foot, as
thick, heavy tree branches sway in the wind.

In perfect stillness
the crops and forests and trails and leaves and creeks
reveal our papered-over, lifeless hearts
locked up behind impotent white privilege
unable to see.
Hearts that must break to be free, yet we too are desperate because
we keep trying to run away from all that remains true:
The scars
The welts
The gunshots
The broken necks
The black men hanging in trees
The black women bearing children of rape by white slave masters.
We are them, and they are us.
Yet we cover our ears and eyes
pretending we don’t hear or see or feel,
hiding behind white picket fences
because what would come of us if we
were to bear witness to the lingering pain of our brothers and sisters?
If we truly knew the story of our
Mammy’s who raised us up,
who held us on their laps
and in their skirts like we were their own?

Let’s lay our hands on each other’s hearts
open ourselves wide
to make a new path
for all that pain.
Let’s rip away the chains and the wall paper
and the white picket fences
and remember our blood is red, too.
And admit to the world
how perilously beaten and tortured and raped
we all are because of our silence.
Maybe then healing can begin in earnest.

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Laura Sharon

Writer, poet, coach, and consultant. Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator.