The Unknown Blues

Our flutes flew wild beneath the sweet sky of Africa.
Our drums thundered out our victories.
Our harvests grow rich with plantain and papaya.
Our bellies grow fat with our children of love.

Stormy clouds, dark with greed, hovered over our wild paradise.
Butchers of men captured our jungle spirit.
Chained and beaten, they dragged our bones into their death hulls.
Their fat tubas farted shit upon us.
Boxed on shelves, we lay in our own vomit.
With slop for food and piss for a bath, we sailed to your new world.

Your spirit of liberty welcomed us with an auction block.
You stole our mother tongue and then laughed as we twisted your English
Your chains squeezed our bones but not our spirit.
Our body submits but our spirit resists.
Our resistance grows into the blues.

From the “get go,” you blessed us with full employment.
Working from dawn to dust, we owned nothing.
Our heart sung out from day to night.
We learned the meaning of the blues.
“The bitter fruits of yesterday bear their bitter weeds today.”
We still own nothing.

Beneath the scorched sun, we plowed, chopped, and picked your cotton.
We washed your drawers and ironed your shirts.
We mopped your floors and scoured your knives and forks.
We nursed your babies and washed their asses.
When you were ill, we even washed your ass.
We even mocked our tears over your death.
We bore your children, half slave, half master.
Thus we increased your profits.

In your eyes, the more we slaved; the lazier we became.
To free ourselves from your terror, we escaped into the blues:
“Steal away…
Follow the North Star…
No more driver’s lash over me….”

You whipped our bodies, poured hot oil into our wounds,
And starved our bellies
We ate your scraps, the crumbs from your table
You raped our women, sold our children;
You even sold your own children.
We wear the mask, smiling on the outside, bitter on the inside.
Our heart sings out the blues:
“Follow the north star…
No more auction blocks over me….”
The fiery blues of freedom burned through our hearts.
Though our bones were chained, our spirit resisted.
Resist we must, our daggers stalked your throat.
As you spit on our food, so we spit on yours.

We broke the chains; we stole away.
With grass for a bed and a rock for a pillow, we struggled northward.
With a scrub bush for an outhouse, we trekked forward.
In our trail of tears, we walked the blues.
We lived the blues,
Death before the driver’s lash,
Death before chains,
Death before slavery.

Our weary bones ached for freedom.
Scorched by the sun, numb by the cold, we struggled northward.
With empty stomachs and empty pockets,
Our heart grow fat with thoughts of freedom.
With dreams of freedom, we escaped into the blues:
“Steal away…
Follow the North Star…
Follow the drinking gourd….

Your promised land, the north, greeted us not with a kiss
But with a slap.
Separate but unequal, Jim Crow laws ruled in the land of the free.
You welcomed us with
No jobs
No education
No health care.
We traded a southern shack for a northern tenement.
Your freedom was a bitter pill to swallow.

Our strange fruit hung from your trees.
In the land of the free, you denied us the right to vote.
In the land of the free, we shuffled through your back doors.
In the land of the free, we set in the back of your buses.
Your promised land turned heaven into hell.
We ran your factories.
We scrubbed your floors.
We scoured your dishes,
Such was the promised land.
During the great wars, our red blood bled for your liberty.
We fought violently for your cause;
Yet we fought nonviolently for our cause.
You embraced our non-violence,
As you spread violence throughout the world.

Our struggles opened the door not only for our people,
But also for women,

For red, yellow, and other people of color.
Yet with the door open, we still did not share in the feast
From your table.
We still fight over your crumbs.

Our heart soars.
Our horns scream.
Our drums thunder.
Our pianos bark.
We sing out the blues;
The blues lost and buried in our heart.