A Story Told in Song

From the savanna,

the deserts,

the grasslands,

the veldt,

and the jungle,

 

The music played.

 

From the empires,

the gold and diamond mines,

and the pyramids,

The music played.

 

From the ivory tusks,

the red clay,

the ebony wood,

and the skins of war drums,

 

The music played.

 

On the ship,

In the cabins,

In ‘massa’s house,

In the whipping sheds,

and the cotton and tobacco fields,

 

The music played.

 

And at sunset,

Heads lowered over

Unmarked graves of

Old men and

Innocent children,

 

The music played.

 

From the Underground Railroad

through the rise of Pullman Porters,

 

The music played.

 

Through Jim Crow,

chain gangs,

and Sunday morning services,

 

The music played.

 

Through hard times

and celebrations,

and through vibrant

ululations,

and our rising expectations,

 

The music played.

 

In the Deep South,

through the screams

and cries wrought

by night riders

and cross burnings,

 

The music played.

 

Over the sound

of barking dogs

and high pressure hoses,

 

The music played.

 

Through Malcolm and Dr. Huey Newton,

and Martin and Jesse,

and Barack Obama,

 

The music played.

 

Through the first black…(insert pioneer name here)

 

The music…(still playing)

 

We must teach the songs

that kept the voices lifted

though hearts were heavy,

 

Kept the flames of joyous spirits

and the love of hearts

lit,

though our dreams of freedom were

constantly extinguished.

 

Kept hope alive through our best

writers, artists, and orators,

Proud Black Men

and Beautiful Black Women

united in one purpose:

Us.

 

The music played, and plays still…

 

And it will play on

as long as we remember.

 

And if

we

teach it well,

long after

we’re gone.

True Formation

These
Black Men
proud,
determined,
tired of being
treated as less

tired of their
People being
treated as less

made a statement
took a stand
took action

See the
seriousness
in their eyes
in their demeanor

Protecting
those
who would be
brutalized

Yes, they were a hate group

They hated
oppression
police brutality
injustice

They hated
seeing children go hungry
because there wasn’t
money to feed them.

They hated
living in
neglected and
downtrodden
communities,
and didn’t wait
around for
the government
to change things

And for
all of that
they were
betrayed
infiltrated
and
destroyed

Pull up your pants,
and make
something
of your life
besides
another
tragic tale.

De Value

Well, let’s see…

 

We’ve been

 

Categorized as subhuman

 

Documented as inferior

 

Theorized as violent

 

Despised as unintelligent

 

Valued as garbage

 

Discarded as worthless

 

“They’re:

 

Not worth getting to know

but worth keeping out.

 

Not worth hiring

but they only want welfare

 

Not worth educating

but they’re thugs

 

Not worth any money

but we destroyed their

prospering towns

 

Not worth access to power

but they’re violent.”

 

So if you truly believe that,

Let me ask you this:

 

Why, for one second,

would you pretend

to be something so…

 

worthless?

 

A Story Told in Song

From the savannah

the deserts

the grasslands

the veldt

and the jungle

 

The music played

 

On the ship

In the cabins

In the master’s house

and the whipping sheds

and the cotton and tobacco fields

 

The music played

 

 

And at sunset

Heads lowered over

Unmarked graves of

Old men and

Innocent children

 

The music played

 

From the Underground Railroad

through the rise of Pullman Porters

 

The music played

 

Through Jim Crow

and chain gangs

 

The music played

 

Through hard times

and celebrations

 

Through vibrant

ululations

 

and rising expectations

 

The music played

 

In the Deep South

through the screams

and cries wrought

by night riders

and cross burnings

 

The music played

 

Over the sound

of barking dogs

and high pressure hoses

 

The music played

 

Through Malcolm, through Newton,

and Martin and Jesse

 

The music played

 

Through the first black…

 

The music…

 

We must teach the songs

that kept the voices lifted

though hearts were heavy

 

Kept the flames lit though

our dreams of freedom were

constantly extinguished

 

 

Kept hope alive through our best

writers, artists, and orators.

 

The music played, and plays still

 

And it will play on

as long as we remember,

 

And if

we

teach it well,

long after

we’re

gone.

Our Children from a Distance See

Our children from a distance see

We only say that we are free

 

If we were pharaohs, queens and kings

what good was it to be those things

 

if we are not united here

and walk in self-hate, terror, fear,

 

when those that came before us fought

and those who learned were those who taught

 

and passed on knowledge, trade and thought

that cost the flesh the whip had wrought?

 

I think if we are truly free

We can’t keep blaming slavery

 

For our condition in this land

It’s time to take another stand

 

For Martin’s gone, and Malcolm too

It’s up to us now what to do

 

Together it takes you and me

To change the things our children see

 

 

 

 

Trace (4)

4)

Lydia managed to secure Trace a room in the castle after all, but in the servants’ quarters, where no one would bother him.

In fact, she’d given him Walcroft’s room; the man was long gone, and would not be back.

No one would look for him, but Trace kept him in the back of his mind. Given what he’d said about magic, and him being a member of the court, even though a minor one, he might start trouble for Trace with those who’d want to curry favor with the new ruler, whoever that was.

Walcroft’s room was befitting his station; comfortable, but not opulent.

Used to sleeping in strange places on strange beds, he anticipated no problem falling asleep.

Trace had already incanted to make sure nothing was already inside it that would harm him, then did another incant to seal the room so that nothing could get in.

Trace sat on the edge of the bed, bounced the mattress a few times.

It would do for the night.

He rubbed at his temples, took a deep breath, and poured some water from the pitcher on the nightstand.

His hands shook slightly; it wasn’t the first time it happened, but he felt a fresh stab of alarm every time it did, and it was beginning to happen more often.

He had the night servants draw a bath for him, and he sank deep, letting the steam take him away for a time, letting it take away Lydia’s lingering scent from his body.

He smiled at the memory of her boldness, was caught off-guard by the ferocity of his pent-up need; he had not been gentle, and she, taking his cue, had responded in kind.

Their release on and into each other was so strong it was almost painful.

Where her fingers scratched, his bruised; she took the pain like a warrior, and their mouths and tongues locked in a heated side battle for long moments after.

When she finally broke away and opened those large blue eyes, they were glistening, and her smile was one of affectionate triumph.

Trace, it’s all over you. You need someone.

He got out of the tub, dried himself, unpacked and donned his nightclothes, and tried unsuccessfully to remember the last time he’d had a woman before tonight , much less with the intensity he’d taken Lydia.

He felt a twinge of receding sorcery; the pain in his hands from casting remained long after the scars receded.

Summoning, conjuring, incanting, all of it combined was beginning to take its toll on him physically.

The danger he was constantly in, the near misses of sharpened weaponry, of hot and cold bolts of magic, the narrow escapes, the beatings, both given and received, had their own psychic costs.

Constantly staying cool-headed when he wanted to scream and let the fear overtake him instead of pushing it aside, having to stand and face horrors tangible and otherwise, to resist the powers of demonic hypnotism and temptation, the seductive whispers for him to give up, give in, surrender and die in unparalleled bliss, or unparalleled pain, while others fled and took cover, abandoning him to his fate, was wearing him down.

Training with weapons, training with magic, the long hours spent in the dark before sunrise and after sunset, the reading, the studying, the conversations with things long departed that sought to teach, use, control or just take him, led him to begin thinking about the day he would no longer be able to continue doing this.

He’d already done it far longer than he wanted to.

Far longer than he should’ve.

He had more money than he’d ever need; royalty paid generously to bury their indiscretions.

Peasantry had offered him children, daughters, wives, livestock, a percentage of their harvests.

His sea travels had netted him casks of rare wines, well-aged whiskeys, flowered and fruited brandies and potent rum.

His coffers and larders were full, and would remain so for the rest of his life.

And he had no one to inherit any of it.

His brain, in spite of his best efforts, began racing with thoughts.

He reviewed what he’d seen of Lydia just this night: she was practical, tough, resourceful, sarcastic, which spoke to an intelligence uncommon in a serving girl.

Most of them just went with the flow, hoping that one day the hands that pushed them down onto their backs, onto mattresses, onto haystacks, into mud, the hands that shoved them up against walls of damp, cold stone and  splintery wooden planks, would one day lift them to their feet and restore their dignity.

Bedraggled, beleaguered princesses-in-waiting, the lot of them.

No, Lydia was not among those at all.

In truth, he was flattered that she wanted to share his life, but he felt it was for the wrong reasons, although wanting to escape a life of harlotry was a legitimate enough excuse.

But he was a mage who walked in dark places; more often than not, blood was spilled, and sometimes it was his.

You need someone.

He heard the words reverberate in his mind as he drifted off to sleep, wanting to conjure a vision of their potential future together, but he was simply too tired to do anymore.

The darkness took him under, into a rare and dreamless peace.

© Alfred W. Smith Jr. 2015