The Great Migration is the parable of leaving & coming to,
leaving rock-salted sorrow
to come to terms with deferred dignity, leaving hate, too long in place &
treading over Jim Crow-crippled bodies to grab what was not owned, leaving,
with no pot to piss in. They filed from rural patches of sharecrop-spent
dirt & Parchman work farms, from cotton-field holla' to electrified Chicago
blues, from jump the broom to Detroit assembly line dreams of reinvention,
from minstrels to uptown cabarets to Broadway; to rent parties: a citified
brand of jook joint in up-north ghetto gatherings, from So. Baptist shake,
rattle & roll to "Thank God almighty, I'm free at last," fantasizing a "formula"
at the Mountaintop.
They brought catfish, greens & cornbread, blood-bucket daddy Blues &
They carried battered hope in bundled cardboard boxes & rope-tied
satchels, in dreams that made them believe the Son would rise, even as the
legitimacy of their pain struggled helplessly at the seams of the Veil:
darkness to light to darkness, every kind of sorrow in every voice they
heard & rarely judged by what their hands could do, but rather, by how they
looked or spoke. They came, with stories that
spoke the generational hum of persistence: the endeavor to persevere, in
the face of the "outside gaze" that measured beauty in increments of silk or
sackcloth, in the face of false entitlement: the upturned, razor-blade nose &
racist cop. They came, in Pullman carriage, in hope-and-a-shoestring
beat-up cars, in get-there-soon, North Star-true—one foot, then the other,
like runaway slaves: the O.G. tri-athletes on the Underground Railroad.
They came, like wandering Jews, drawn to the discriminating flame that
seduced by combustion that warmed desire & distilled a ghost of a chance
from the segregated liquor of trial & tribulation—flashes of silvered hope,
darting through & around a gale force wind howling back into the heart of
the question: are we there yet?
henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words in fire to wake the world ablaze & illuminated by courage that empathizes with all the awful moments: a freight train bearing down with warning that blazes from the heart, like a chambered bullet exploding inadvertently.