Ghosts of Aprils Past

Cotton. Copyright 2011 Robin L. Chandler

Guarded by the monuments honoring the defenders from the northern aggression

A town square, now sits quiet

Bypassed

The highway  leads to the WalMart suburbs, spaces filled with fast food and fast fun, a drive through espresso and a MySpace page

The rhythms of cicadas, drowned by the roar of air conditioners

In the shade of live oaks, by the County Courthouse, I sit with my father and uncle

They speak of my grandfather – Eph – Manager of the cotton gin in Thorndale, Texas

With their voices the past comes alive:

The wagons creaking under their load

Bales of cotton

Products of hours of picking under a hot sun

Sweat streaming

Backs bent with pain

Bloody hands

Callused hands scarred by the thorns of the south’s cash crop

White hands and black hands made equal

By the pain and the heat

Sunlight streams through the cracks

Revealing cotton dust rising

Filling the spaces between breaths

The cotton enters the gin

Separating fibers from seeds

Long white fibers

To form the clothes on our backs

Dark seeds pressed

Oil for margarine, meal to feed cattle

They say the cotton gin killed Eph

Years of dust caused the cancer in his brain

A working man

A hard man

No time for tenderness

Love meant food on the table and a roof over their heads

My father’s sense of duty and responsibility flow from him

Father buried Eph in Taylor – as he asked — with a good view of the  road to Thorndale

Later that evening, we watch a little league game, April brings the nation’s pastime

A hot wind blows across the field

A reminder of the scorching Texas day

Grasshoppers by the hundreds fly towards the electric lights.

A black child walks by

Interrupting the serenity of our colorless existence

Watch him, a stranger says, he may have a knife

Shaken, I am horrified: the cotton gin cranks on, separating the light from the dark

Suburban streets cannot mask

Centuries of hurt, neglect and segregation

Revisiting our country’s Civil War, April resonates: Sumter, Appomattox, Lincoln’s Assassination

Bypass not these one-hundred and fifty years

Bypass not these struggles for justice

Mold not history to political need

Pick not the path of easy memory and least resistance

Sift the evidence, seek the truths

For we hold these truths to be self-evident

That “all” are created equal

Long before his death in Memphis in April 1968

Dr. King dreamed on the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at the  steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

“…..we will be able to transform the jangly discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brother hood.”

2 thoughts on “Ghosts of Aprils Past

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