Monday, July 16, 2012
Reconstruction in Glass
Now in the scorching late summer, he works among wraiths. When he moves, the humid air clings to his flesh; and when he is still, his spent breath and rivulets of sweat condense on the burned glass plates overhead. He sees coils of shadows drifting within
grays of shifting shades… hears always the clamor of guns and terrible cries of the wounded, the proud insistent voices of freed slaves calling out: “Freedom! Freedom will reign, come heaven or come hell!”
And Jefferson finally shouts, “Let be! Yanks nor Rebs got no truck with me!
“I was true free then, me an’ thousands other black folks, could tag on after Sherman man-army. Call us Contrabands ‘cause we could join on in, burn an’ loot some ourselves, tie those Yankee rails into ribbon-bows.
“But I ain’t that--I quit an’ I walk to here. What I want with some dam’ war now?”
The shadowed, sullen plants rest, listless in the heat. And one night he dreams…
The many voices blend one into another, a chorus puzzled, angry, mourning: Where is this? Who am I now? What did we die for? No one remembers. Our graves lie ill-tended. Our only memorials are glass. Discarded.
And he wakes to a crisp fall morning.
VI. Clear Glass
Ghosts and memories gone silent, he cuts away dead blossoms, prunes sagging stems, tends the mulch of summer’s end--chopping old beds, turning the composted heap. As he labors row on row, he speaks softly to the stilled growths: “Crop field or
He takes a deep breath. Autumn’s rich, ripened smells rise fresh in his nostrils, and he imagines the final breath of every soldier fallen in the War, collecting in drifts of cloud, changed to air again by the Lord’s own greenery. Squinting up at the blurred glass, he lets black loam slip from his fingers. Saying:
“This the light too, the darkes’ part. See, life be only what the light make of it, and every kind of pain melt in the sun. Jefferson Spivey, free man--that’s me. And when I pass, this earth here remember you, your scars and hurt come to clear at last.”
He re-turns the soil.