• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 09
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Mahalia Sings to Freedom

"I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land….”
- Harriet Tubman

And I am a stranger, still
a face no one recognizes,
still an excuse to clutch purses
first and ask questions later,
still a reason to shoot
then investigate,
still a reason to attach false
crimes to my name.

Always a barely human body.

And how I arrived here will be a mystery,
my capturer repeating the same investigation.

How I managed to trudge to freedom
after traversing this terrain,
like bondage is something I got
over. As if a stump, a hill, a broken heart

like I ain’t belly-crawl and scrape
through mud, thousand-mile
tunnels to get here.

How did I make it over?


Mahalia Sings to Freedom

My capturers will ask and wonder—
cock their heads to the side
perplexed at how my cracked skin
and wrinkled brow broke free
and stumbled on the cover
of currency

and this gentle arrival will be enough
to convict me of fleeing

How did I make it over?

How does a fugitive arrive?
Rope burns still fresh and bleeding
bandaged back still raw
sullied and soil-covered

and still I made it over.

But I never forget the scars
etched into my skin,
or the bounty on my head
worth more than the sum of me.