A black Catholic girl’s poetry from an Easter Sunday memory
white stockings never covered my ashy legs.
I wore frilly white ankle socks
buckled into black patent leather shoes.
I tried to dye the ash, like colored eggs, in Vaseline intensive care lotion
kept close at hand for the long drive on Easter Sunday.
granddaddy drove the family to downtown Northeast
with granny in the front seat
mama, aunt bernetta, and me in the back.
We were picture perfect in bonnets and a Fedora
as we crossed the MD/DC border with our contraband;
sweet potatoes in Karo syrup,
homemade buns hidden on laps
and a pot of greens safely tucked in the trunk.
The previous Easter, my great Uncle Don
bought a deed embedded on my tongue.
Oratory was mandatory back then
and in 1970 a dollar bill was the ultimate reward.
There will be candy!
Handing me a laminated wallet-sized card
of a poem by Saint Francis of Assissi
and a copy of Lincoln’s Gettyburg address,
Uncle Don bent down to my level and
staring right into my eyes he gently said:
The deed of recitation evoked the intangible promise of Emancipation,
resurrecting an origin myth to be consumed and repeated from memory.
In the backseat, in muted fright
and last-minute trepidation,
I madly memorized the verses as we arrived.
Standing in the living room with everyone watching
I read aloud: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”
And then attempted Lincoln’s longer address “…that this nation
shall have a new birth of freedom.”
We girls and women have been fighting for
any benefits from such bargains ever since.
With the piece-work memory of a grown woman,
I can still stitch together a couple of those lines:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Doubt … faith.
Darkness … light.
Just before Cathechism, a process of confirming one’s faith through recitation,
my mother pulled me from the Catholic Church
that had forbade her attendance since my birth.
Forgiveness was never granted
for her unmarried sin.
Let this ode be my prayer, my Gettysburg address,
conjured to remedy the injury and harm visited upon
the souls of child-bearing girls and women.
I conjure Uncle Don’s command to memorize it
to embrace a sometimes intangible promise,
with no need to seek consolation.
Let our good and best works voice our presence.
Resurrect love for yourself and others as best you can.
Be still and know we are more than mere girls or women.
We are a light in the darkness
We bring hope and life despite a world of despair
We occupy a space of divine love
waiting to be resurrected in ourselves
Written by Kyra Gaunt ©2016