“The Making of Freedom” | An original poem by Briana Augustus
Years of mercy unlimited
You, Lord, scooped the dirt
That put me in this skin
Every time I lay awake
I pray the Lord my soul and shame to take.
Born brown and smooth
Delicate and freckled.
A few bruises well-deserved
Stained my temple with scars, but
Please Lord, I pray my body not break.
My teeth are grinding
These fingers of mine keep trembling
Neck and wrist muscles are weakening
Against a taut rope, threads burning
My neck’s not the first to be cradled here
This home-grown nappy hair
Years of neglect insured these roots
Now far beyond repair but never far from a stare
Resilience never gave me the chance not to lose. No, my ragged ends were born in a noose
Tangled by rain no more to relieve me,
Lord, please reign and at least, I pray, let my spirit be released and made free
I’m ready to stop taking the tugging of this tightening leash!
Her heart quickens as sore eyes look on – at the beckoning of shotguns and whips
Eyes and hearts swollen from the former night’s weep
Grieved beneath but not by the swell of the Southern heat,
Her congregation clenches tears back into their bosoms
Their breaths collectively hanging in the air like unfinished sentences
Sky turns to haze as her eyes peer up into ever more and
Ever more goes the sorely wrecked sailor to shore, to her home
As the planks beneath her
Barrel into the swing of a hinge
Her spirit descends upon them all
Her final breath abruptly fades in exhalation – chilling hearts and the hands of time
Her Lord’s angels take hold of her soul in the wake of a death deflected by life eternal, and alas, another spirit is set free.
This is the story of an enslaved woman about to receive a death sentence by lynching. Her thoughts begin the piece before the focus shifts to the onlookers – the “congregation” of slaves witnessing the incident. A third transition of perspective comes in the final stanza, which summarizes the event with a grimly optimistic tone.