ANONYMOUS

 Three Sisters 4
                                                                                              

 

1.
Yes, we knew, Yes, oui nous, yes us we knew, but I don’t know. I can’t deny it.  One hears stories; his-stories; and her-stories.  One never can tell what is or is not the truth.  One overhears voices but one doesn’t know quite what to believe, or what to do about it.  So cold a man’s penis will freeze right off!  Yes, it is quite ugly.  We never know quite how to tell if a story is true, or how to describe if it is something whole.  Maybe they are just trying to scare us off?  Maybe this northwestern tack is entirely off.  I don’t know exactly how cold it can get, but I do know that it can get awfully cold up north in the Great White North of Canada; much colder than down around here south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  They say one can get frostbite on the fingers and toes.  There are Arctic storms and Arctic winter and Arctic winds and Arctic weather and cold.  What’s frostbite?  I don’t know.  Ask a Canadian.  Maryland winters are considered to be relatively mild, we get a little snow, we let the snow melt and we hope to muddle through.  The Underground Railroad stops in Ontario and Québec in Canada.  Since none of us speak French, we thought Toronto, Ontario would be our best bet.  That much I know, for there is much I don’t know yet.  Jim, a fellow slave, said he would truck and tend to the necessary details for the trek.

And yet I still don’t know.  It is all so new.  Jim was his name; he came from sweet Carolina, so unattached, unscathed, so good looking, young and strong, my daughter would need support for the long journey and help without a ride.  I noticed in the last few months that the master was acting kinda blue, unkind, strange, a flesh tone of aquamarine and perhaps shame.  The master had just bought Jim to help him with the farmhand labors; cleaning the stables; clearing the lawn, helping out in the fields of Spanish colza.  I like when the blossoming yellow turnip plant flowers.  The talk was of war and fear, the news was the threat of secession.  The master could do little to provide details or facts.  The master was alone.

Sole was the master, the master had a soul but no children he could call his own, except of course Mary, our daughter.  He was young but still, he was alone.  And he was courting disaster in a new way.  The frisson was uniquely palpable.

Call me Allyn or call me Hagar, call me Allyn Hagar if you wish or if you will, please, dare me.  Perhaps you don’t care for me?  I care.  Please take care.  I am servile, the harmonious lover of the master, a child, a woman of twenty-eight, almost twenty-nine!  I am the mother of a child, Mary, just eleven years of age, oh how I love her so, the master does too, will she be able to keep up with us as we trek over arctic tundra? 

As the days go by, morning comes and I prepare the house fireplaces and the flame for the oven and range.  Breakfast is early; the master rises with the sun, as the child sleeps in.  Lunch of sandwiches and soup, or just delicious soup, we dine supper late after sunset.  Saturdays and Sundays Mary and I dine with the master in luxury in the seemingly palatial house’s red painted dining room. 

Soon the time will come to prepare for the journey, a day, a night, again and again: practice.  Jim speaks of a new life, but I don’t know, he hasn’t proposed… yet.

I was born on a farm just outside Hagerstown, in western Maryland, near the border with Pennsylvania, where I cannot remember my father but I remember my mother was a proud and stubborn woman, a woman the old farmer could not stand and so he sold her to another farming man and kept me as a housemaid.  I worked as a house slave until I was twelve.  Then the new master (we’ll call him Allen, for that is not his real name, but we like the symmetry of the suggestion), came to our farm and found me with my pedigree in housework. A natural partnership was made and begun.

And a great mystery was also born, I don’t remember when it began, I just know that the party is over now.  I am in need of thinking about Mary.  It’s about providing protection. It’s not that Allen is mean or cruel.   It’s just that he acts as though he owned us!  The gall!  And to think of the reality we had together.   

2.
She had changed.  Of that much he was sure.  She may have changed as he might have changed too, a merry blueness of sky, a gai grayness of hue and attitude, the signs of age and the honest truth of Ruth. 

She had changed, but was it for the better?  He didn’t know.  Perhaps, a sizeable and noticeable behavioral after-thought, the daughter a bit older now, the mother afraid, a fear based upon ignorance, history, yet she is unscathed, a day at the park perhaps might help?  No way to tell for sure.  It is worth a try…

He would fight her, she would leave, leave for Canada, or so he believed, though it’s a choice not like her to make, her hatred for the cold, a fear perhaps he might find her, with Jim; Jim being the male slave of the household; Jim, the lone male slave of Allen, the master, on the farm.  He had known her since she was almost a child.  He was afraid.  And he was alarmed.

~

We left by way of railroad, underground that is, secretive and hidden, through field and meadow of yellow flowering madness.  A cast of dew and sadness as the temperature seemed to drop, a method to the gai and faithful gladness we would adopt as Jim and I took turns helping carry Mary on our backs.  Sometimes we walked, but often we traveled by horse and wagon, the conductor at the reins.  Stealth and black night our cover, the distance seemingly far, often we did not know where we are, the conductor perhaps unsure of himself, leading the way.

Jim had planned his escape while a slave in Carolina.  Down south he heard of the Underground Railroad.  He knew someone who knew someone and he brought this with him to Maryland.  He planned his escape well. 

More often than not we traveled by night, tenebrous, shadows of moonlight, a carving of the day’s coverings and the way of Underground Railroad.  Going through Pennsylvania and upstate New York, we weathered the changes and the season.  Supplied by kind folk from Philadelphia, (as we were told) we were clothed for the start of a reasonable winter.  It was a winter of our new age of freedom and great hopes for the future.

The lookout searched for a light, on a stoop or perhaps a porch. On the fence rail one might find a quilt with cryptic patterns or floral blossoms.  This was meant as a sign, a signal to travelers that runaways were welcome here.  Jim looked for these signs. 

Sometimes the men would talk.  The trip was long, and the fields of colza were inviting.   Sometimes the talk was crude, rude, and rudimentary.  The women were present, but their delicacies ignored.  Mary was in for an arrival. 

As the reasons were complex and the appearances unwieldly, to travel abroad away from our southern home, to go to the snowy and perhaps the arctic regions to find and make our new home for Mary. 

3.
Canada was not as far away as we were taught.  The Niagara River crossing was further south than we had thought.  Our steps brought us far away from the Great Lake effect snowfall that will blanket the Upstate region of New York, as the prospect of our first winter looms closer.  Closing the door on our American home seemed easier in this way.  The day was still 24 hours long, and the days to which we belonged were welcoming.  The nights were cold but welcome too.  Blue be the jays, and black the crows, as gray was the squirrel and who knows when it will snow in Toronto.  (Jim’s testicles are still intact).  Thank goodness for that!

In fact, we are happy to still be Americans, Canadian-Americans, African-Americans, North Americans, natives of the Americas...  Our new neighbors are embracing our voyage; I am employed as a servant in a home on the hill, a neighborhood of wealthy white folk.

One day two men came sniffing and perhaps crawling about, two men looking more perhaps like bloodhounds than people, with a noticeable drawl; a southern tone of speech.  Jim wasn’t home, (or so we said), the men decided to wait instead of coming back later, a little personal matter to “tidy-up” they said, won’t take but a minute.  And so I opened the secretary drawer…

After ten minutes of this and that, Jim walked in, through the front door, with his hat, and engaged the men, strangers in fact to his home, a flat of a house in the poorer immigrant neighborhoods of Toronto, no place for two southern gentlemen from America to be caught dead in.

I reached for the drawer… and pulled out the revolver…  The men froze… only momentarily; then one spoke, hesitatingly: “No.  No….  That’s quite okay…  Honey… we won’t take… any more of your time… thank you… thank you all… for your hospitality… for allowing us to come inside to wait… but we have other visits to make… we’ll be… on our way…  Thank you… very much…  Good day.”  And with that they left.  They just sauntered into the city atmosphere.   And so with that said I put the gun back into its preferred and proper place. 

Spring sprung and so we had begun a new life once again, the stiff and tenuous relationship with the new employer eased up a bit as the staff requested a day off, and got it, a day in the suburbs on a fine spring Sunday afternoon.  Jim rented a carriage (as he would finally propose marriage), and soon we were off to the country! 

Oh, you should have seen it, the lilacs and the fields; fields like the Spanish colza back home in Maryland, down south of the real border, the border with the slave states.  As thoughts of yellow blossoms bloom and flower, we scoured the countryside for evidence of signs of home.  There’s a field of colza, right?  Perhaps… I don’t know; too early, can’t really tell just yet. 

Sometimes at night, Jim and I would fight, or just stay up and talk about things. Things like the seduction, the colza and the rape, the fair yellow attitude of Allen, the master; and the escape.  His unwillingness to see that we might leave, go away; or then again, maybe not?  Perhaps he saw it coming; the train, the stations, the task that was at hand.  Surely he talked about it with the gang down at the farm stand or perhaps at the General Store on Saturday mornings…  If not there, then to himself; we don’t know, we just don’t understand. 

And we don’t really want to know.  But we care.  Here and there we get news of the States; a place close to the heart, even today, as fighting has broken out over Fort Sumter. Stay out of it, I say, we are well on our way to becoming Canadian citizens, let go of the war, the past, and be free!  You have a child to support now, and think of me!  Please, do so.

~

Then two years later and 1863 brought news of emancipation, victory at Gettysburg and the formation of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of volunteer free black men, a hope perhaps for former slaves to eventually join in.  Jim knew they were taking applications from free black Canadians, the thought was why not him?  Maryland is a border state, loyal to the Union.  Why not Jim?  Instead I am a fugitive from freedom and justice and not a government by proclamation. 

Allyn then offered: I am a pacifist.  I do not believe in war.  I believe in family, I don’t believe in fighting.  I am a woman and a mother.

So Jim spoke: I didn’t start this war.  But I sure as heck can do something to end it.  And bring freedom to over four million of my people as I am doing it.  If freedom rings in the Deep South, it will ring throughout the South, everywhere.  That’s something worth fighting for!

She responds: I believe in peace.  I sacrificed our home for it.  I think I understand my husband and his ideals.  But the war is civil, it is not about slavery, it’s about politics.  Rise up above it!  Rise above it all. Free Bird.

As they would argue well into the night, with little resolution; it meant a revolution was stored in the machinery of a “civil” war. National politics finds its way into the corners of every aspect of our lives. 
 

Editorial Note:  Allyn Hagar did fight for what she believed in, employing tactical retreat when appropriate, and a show of force when necessary.  Her love for the master is unquestioned, as we cannot put ourselves in her bare feet.   I am not black, nor am I a woman, nor am I a slave, the differences between us remain the same.   

 4.
Two years later and the war was over, Jim never got his chance to fight.  Later that year Congress abolished slavery throughout the entire United States, an accomplishment, but not the harbinger of a change of southern hearts.  We knew it would take more, much more, to change the minds and souls of white folk throughout all the American states, a united front against a wave of indifference was needed. 

True, one step at a time.  The assassination death of the President did not help matters any.  Reconstruction suffered.  Allyn cautioned going back as Jim was ready to go.  She thought she had found a home, a new home, in Canada.  Mary was in school and doing well.  Why disrupt a good thing?  Think of the child!

Jim did not like the winters even though his penis remained firmly attached!  And he always felt he was a refugee in Canada; not at home.   But he would give in as he always did, to his lady’s “foreign” preferences.

5.
Years passed and Mary grew up to become a lovely woman, as Allyn feared she would.  She followed her mother into the household trade of housekeeping. Employed not too distant from her mother, they shared a common bond for servitude. 

Eventually she married and had three children, two boys and a girl, as mother’s health began to fail her.  Then surprisingly in the late winter of 1881, she passed away.  Complications due to jaundice and consumption (perhaps modern day TB) were listed as the cause of death, but not having a male heir to carry her name may have been a contributing factor to her ill health and lack of well-being.

6.
Mary would live-in with her father who was anxious to return to America before he passed away.  He was forty-seven-years-old and he was shocked by his wife’s untimely demise.  He wanted to go home.

Mary did her best to make him comfortable in his twenty-year-old “new” residence…  Some memories never fade.  Like the colza, the warm summer weather, the heat, and the Spanish moss shade.

The segregated railway cars were new, unnecessary when Black folk were all on the plantation, and not a problem to comply.  Makes sense to me. 

Mary decided to help Jim go home.  She made arrangements by train to travel to Chicago, a boomtown in the northern Midwest.  Jim was glad to be back in America, though the winters were still a test.  Mary traveled with him and did her best to settle into her new home. 

7.
Fast forward eighty years, almost one century, as a Black American girl becoming a young woman asks her grandmother what are her roots?  Why, you don’t want to dye your hair now do you?  No, Jonathan would not hear of it.  Besides, I am interested in becoming a follower of Islam.  Nana speaks in a low voice, to better gain attention. 

Nana’s father comes from a long line of men descending from a mother named Mary Hagar.  Mary was the only child of Allyn and Jim, runaway slaves from America.  Allyn Hagar might have gotten her name from the nearby town of Hagerstown, we aren’t sure, but we surmise from the naming of Mary like Maryland, that Allyn was aware of her surroundings and her roots.  Allyn is Celtic/British for harmonious. That is why we named you Harmony, in honor of your great-great-maternal grandmother. 

Harmony decides to select the name of Hajjar, Arabic for Hagar, or one who performs the Hajj, as a surname and keep Harmony as her first name to honor her special ancient forebears.  She follows events in the south of America and thinks about Jim and Allyn.   She quizzes Nana further and finds out that Jim and Allyn were self-emancipated slaves in 1861, when war broke out in America.  

It was a life as a solid citizen, stalwart, reliable, solid.

Then 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment, meaning women have the right to vote.  It’s a protest vote; a political process; a shot across the bow.  Eva Davis Goes to the Polls!  And she is fifty years old!  It’s a new beginning, a here and now.   

Can one woman, one empowered voter, one citizen bring about a political avalanche of before unseen dimensions?  Nobody knows… It’s all quite new, not ugly, but beautiful.

he is intrigued by the protests and demonstrations now going on.  The Freedom Riders have her ear; she makes inquiries if she and her husband Jonathan Finegold might join in.  Yes is the answer, just come on down.   

The bus was ready to roll.   The Greyhound driver is at the wheel and controls.  Charlotte NC is the first destination.  Leaving Washington DC, the bus turns onto the Interstate 95, as a detour takes them to a river road, a bridge is out, the off road in doubt, the bus unwieldly, the need to halt, in the darkness, of an off-road experience. 

A gang gathers round to the sound of sticks on aluminum and glass, the fear is palpable, the fear will last, as a bottle is tossed, a flash and a fire, others toss bombs, the bus leader yells “Get out!”  The lynch mob was prepared with sticks and clubs, a swinging time out, the loss of blood…

Harmony got out bruised.  But where’s Jonathan? “Jonathan!”  No response.  A need to return, a desperate measure, as the flames burn, it is a necessary action.


She will find him dazed and confused, disoriented, and needing help.  She will drag him to the front, through smoke and mirrors, where two men will help him down the stair and out the door, to safety, but perhaps too late.

Jonathan would be hospitalized with isolated third-degree burns over most of his body; amazing doctors he survived the trip to the hospital.   Penicillin was the wonder drug of the 1950s & 60s.  After a four day fight, he, Jonathan Finegold, succumbed to his injuries, dying in a hospital in Charlotte, May 18, 1961; in Jim’s home state of Carolina. 

In recent times, much has been made of a People’s cry for justice.  Harmony would join in the hue and wail.  A need for retribution, the victims are not heeded, to no avail.  Race matters in race matters, as Professor West did write not long ago.  Harmony would add her name to those tired persons who exclaim “Black Lives Matter!” It is an old call to justice as ancient as the civil war itself.

And so many secrets are buried, buried in the fields, the fields of colza, down south and up north, a veritable trove of history, told in her story, a story old, cold, buried deep.

Three sisters struggle for truth, an ugly word, but a truth nonetheless, a necessary poetry.   We who try to provide a glimmer of hope for the knowledge of a country find a sign that we knew plenty! Yes, we knew the fields of colza are full, a reign of terrific horror, thank you for the pleasure of your acquaintance and an honest and polite goodbye.  Best wishes and Peace.  God is Great.  God bless.  Good night!  

God bless America.

Oui nous.



--11/2/16



ANONYMOUS





Three Sisters 6

  
1.  Liz Stryker
I was born on a century old dairy farm in the southern part of Vermont, where the hay was green, the thistles blue and the flowers a shade of glorious and towering yellow.  A place, a farm, near Bennington, of Revolutionary War fame, a place steeped in pride for country and the Green Mountains, the home of men and daughters.

 Nestled among the foothills, the air was clear, one could speak one’s piece, one might speak one’s mind, the winter was cold, but bearable.  The family was quiet, but understanding.  I felt a need to go away.  To find myself, to be me.

 I had to go, (I wasn’t that good of a cook), to explore my possibilities, I had heard of the city of Waltham and the mill buildings; the brand new industrialized machine process of manufacture.  I arranged to travel by horse-drawn coach. 

I was still young, eighteen, feeling good about the future and the coming days ahead; I was excited, it was my first trip away from home, the weather cloudy, overcast yet bright.  We arrived at the Waltham Common where they let me off with my trunk.  The brick mill by the dam in the Charles River was inviting me to the worker’s housing next door.  I sauntered over and opened the door.  I was escorted and brought to a bed that was in a group dormitory space, the privacy nowhere to be found. Oh well, at least I’m in on the ground floor.

The din of machinery could be heard from the outdoors, a sound of bobbins and tracks, the shifting of warp and woof in the weave, the noise of the new machinery!  It was all so wonderful, but for the racket…

The mill was open for only a few years and already it was running out of water.   Somedays we had to shut down early for the lack of liquid resources, a pity really. 

Days would pass into weeks and then months before I found myself daydreaming of home and about the sunflower plants father grew in the yard for seed and delight.  I enjoyed how they once towered over my head, how tall they grew up over my own head, and how they seemed stunted when I went away a year ago.  There was talk of a worker action, a strike, against the company, by us, the now seemingly disgruntled workers, as talk of a layoff was still ringing in the ears of us workers. This was the beginning of our discontent. And that was when I learned the history of my name.  That is what we learn from the opening of an American Century.

2.
The river was named in honor of the English King Charles who granted the charter to form The Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, a charter that would spawn a new country.  A City Upon a Hill, as the first governor, John Winthrop so aptly put it, quoting the Holy Bible.  The Charles River defines colonial Boston as the colonial capital.  The river is the rival of the Merrimack of the north of Massachusetts, a superior waterway for damming, but second in history to Waltham’s mills. The American Industrial Revolution was born here.  History does not forget.

 3.
My name is Elizabeth, but those who know me call me Liz, my last name is Stryker, which until today meant nothing in particular, a strike had little significance but to hit, or strike, the worker grievance had no more meaning to me. Then came the name-calling, and the jabs and the catcalls, a “stryker” became a leader of women.  Twenty years old and becoming an old-hand, the stand to a man, and we were off.  Me and my new identity.

The strike of 1820 was a success, if you call maintaining the status quo success.  The layoffs were avoided, but the working conditions are still loud and dusty.  Coughing unavoidable, fresh air unseen, the lock on the stair horrible, a fire hazard if you ask me…  But who’s asking a “stryker?”  No smoking allowed, ladies; but for the foul-mouthed cigar the boss-man is seen smoking is obscene. 





The years passed and little changed, except for the men;   several boyfriends and one beau, but no proposals for marriage.  Eventually I would resign myself to celibate female bachelorhood.  The women of the mill are like a surrogate family.  And I wasn’t the only one.

Rumors spread and rumors were squelched.

The work was invigorating, but my hearing did suffer.  I was an oiler, I tended the squeaky machines, a deft hand of rapeseed machine oil and all was quiet, for the moment.

The cotton fabric went into cloth destined for those “lace curtain” apartments where the Irish need not apply.  Several of the new workers herald from the Emerald Isle.  I  saw them at church sometimes.  But my attendance was becoming more sporadic…  I was losing my religion.

When at the height of the Irish diaspora, the famine was sending millions to Boston, Canada and America, a crush, an onslaught to those who did not appreciate the language.  As time went by more and more work was transferred to the other mills around New England where the water power was more plentiful.  This was understood.  Then talk of war as the southern states began to secede, and soon fighting and all-out civil war.  The mill was soon back to capacity.

The scenery doesn’t change, the racket continues, one keeps one’s thoughts to oneself, no fraternizing, company rules, a strict control of both the body and the mind, no deviation from the norm, years would go by for little pay, the pressure builds to conform to the mind control agents for the pittance that they offer us.   No savior in sight.  Union is an army. The union was not right, not here, not now.  The war put things on hold.

The bosses and overseers together tried to control our thinking, to put us into pigeonholes or make us more “productive”.  We from the farm remember the fresh air of a mind clear, free, and human.  We saw the debilitating effects of scientific production where People are reduced to cogs in the machinery.  I felt it.  We felt it.  A Stryker would protest vehemently.

Liz would retire from the mill, still a young woman, still capable of the job at hand. She understood it was a young person’s world, the overseers seeing double as the rapeseed oil-can gleamed and ran.  The handwriting on the wall, that was all, that is really all.

4. Mary Hagar
My mother was a fiery fireplug who taught me well on the voyage to freedom we would trek, I remember little of my childhood before we left, that night.    I do know that it can get awfully cold up north in the Great White North of Canada; much colder than down around here south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  They say one can get frostbite on the fingers and toes.  There are Arctic storms and Arctic winter and Arctic winds and Arctic weather and cold.  What’s frostbite?  I don’t know.  Ask a Canadian.  Maryland winters are considered to be relatively mild, we get a little snow, we let the snow melt and we hope to muddle through.  The Underground Railroad stops in Ontario and Québec in Canada.  Since none of us speak French, we thought Toronto, Ontario would be our best bet.  That much I know, for there is much I don’t know yet.  Jim, a fellow slave, said he would truck and tend to the necessary details for the trek.

My mother was Allyn or Hagar, call me Allyn Hagar if you wish or if you will, please, dare me.  Perhaps you don’t care for me?  She was servile, the harmonious lover of the master, a child, a woman of twenty-something.  I am Mary, just eleven years of age.

As the days go by, morning comes and mother prepares the house fireplaces and the flame for the oven and range.  Breakfast is early; the master rises with the sun, as I sleep in.  Lunch of sandwiches and soup, or just delicious soup, we dine supper late after sunset.  Saturdays and Sundays mother and I would dine with the master in luxury in the seemingly palatial house’s red painted dining room. 

Soon the time will come to prepare for the journey, a day, a night, again and again: practice.  Jim speaks of a new life, but we don’t know, he hasn’t proposed… yet.

I was born on this farm just outside Hagerstown, in western Maryland, near the border with Pennsylvania, mother did not speak of father, but I sensed from the master he was the one.  I always thought of him as my knighted protector.   

5.
She had changed.  Of that much he was sure.  She may have changed as he might have changed too, a merry blueness of sky, a gai grayness of hue and attitude, the signs of age and the honest truth of Ruth. 

She had changed, but was it for the better?  He didn’t know.  Perhaps, a sizeable and noticeable behavioral after-thought, the daughter a bit older now, the mother afraid, a fear based upon ignorance, history, yet she is unscathed, a day at the park perhaps might help?  No way to tell for sure.  It is worth a try…

He would fight her, she would leave, leave for Canada, or so he believed, though it’s a choice not like her to make, her hatred for the cold, a fear perhaps he might find her, with Jim; Jim being the male slave of the household; Jim, the lone male slave of Allen, the master, on the farm.  He had known her since she was almost a child.  He was afraid.  And he was alarmed.

~

We left by way of railroad, underground that is, secretive and hidden, through field and meadow of yellow flowering madness.  A cast of dew and sadness as the temperature seemed to drop, a method to the gai and faithful gladness we would adopt as Jim and mother took turns helping carry me on their backs.  Sometimes we walked, but often we traveled by horse and wagon, the conductor at the reins.  Stealth and black night our cover, the distance seemingly far, often we did not know where we are, the conductor perhaps unsure of himself, leading the way.

Jim had planned his escape while a slave in Carolina.  Down south he heard of the Underground Railroad.  He knew someone who knew someone and he brought this knowledge of freedom with him to Maryland.  He planned his escape well. 

More often than not we traveled by night, tenebrous, shadows of moonlight, a carving of the day’s coverings and the way of Underground Railroad.  Going through Pennsylvania and upstate New York, we weathered the changes and the season.  Supplied by kind folk from Philadelphia, (as we were told) we were clothed for the start of a reasonable winter.  It was a winter of our new age of freedom and great hopes for the future.

The lookout searched for a light, on a stoop or perhaps a porch. On the fence rail one might find a quilt with cryptic patterns or floral blossoms.  This was meant as a sign, a signal to travelers that runaways were welcome here.  Jim looked for these signs. 

Sometimes the men would talk.  The trip was long, and the fields of colza were inviting.   Sometimes the talk was crude, rude, and rudimentary.  Us women were present, but our delicacies ignored.  We were in for an arrival. 

As the reasons were complex and the appearances unwieldly, to travel abroad away from our southern home, to go to the snowy and perhaps the arctic regions to find and make our new home for me. 

6.
Canada was not as far away as we were taught.  The Niagara River crossing was further south than we had thought.  Our steps brought us far away from the Great Lake effect snowfall that will blanket the Upstate region of New York, as the prospect of our first winter looms closer. 

In fact, we are happy to still be Americans, Canadian-Americans, African-Americans, North Americans, natives of the Americas...  Our new neighbors are embracing our voyage; mother was employed as a servant in a home on the hill, a neighborhood of wealthy white folk.

One day two men came sniffing and perhaps crawling about, two men looking more perhaps like bloodhounds than people, with a noticeable drawl; a southern tone of speech.  Jim wasn’t home, (or so we said), the men decided to wait instead of coming back later, a little personal matter to “tidy-up” they said, won’t take but a minute.  And so mother opened the secretary drawer…

After ten minutes of this and that, Jim walked in, through the front door, with his hat, and engaged the men, strangers in fact to his home, a flat of a house in the poorer immigrant neighborhoods of Toronto, no place for two southern gentlemen from America to be caught dead in.

She reached for the drawer… and pulled out the revolver…  The men froze… only momentarily; then one spoke, hesitatingly: “No.  No….  That’s quite okay…  Honey… we won’t take… any more of your time… thank you… thank you all… for your hospitality… for allowing us to come inside to wait… but we have other visits to make… we’ll be… on our way…  Thank you… very much…  Good day.”  And with that they left.  They just sauntered into the city atmosphere.   And so with that said mother put the gun back into its preferred and proper place. 

Spring sprung and so we had begun a new life once again, the stiff and tenuous relationship with the new employer eased up a bit as the staff requested a day off, and got it, a day in the suburbs on a fine spring Sunday afternoon.  Jim rented a carriage (as he would finally propose marriage), and soon we were off to the country! 

Oh, you should have seen it, the lilacs and the fields; fields like the Spanish colza back home in Maryland, down south of the real border, the border with the slave states.  As thoughts of yellow blossoms bloom and flower, we scoured the countryside for evidence of signs of home.  There’s a field of colza, right?  Perhaps… We don’t know; too early, can’t really tell just yet. 

Sometimes at night, Jim and mother would fight, or perhaps they just stayed up and talked loudly about things. Things like the seduction, the colza and the rape, the fair yellow attitude of Allen, the master; and the escape.  His unwillingness to see that we might leave, go away; or then again, maybe not?  Perhaps he saw it coming; the train, the stations, the task that was at hand.  Surely he talked about it with the gang down at the farm stand or perhaps at the General Store on Saturday mornings…  If not there, then to himself; we don’t know, we just don’t understand. 

And we don’t really want to know.  But we care.  Here and there we get news of the States; a place close to the heart, even today, as fighting has broken out over Fort Sumter. Stay out of it, she said, we are well on our way to becoming Canadian citizens, let go of the war, the past, and be free! 

~

Then two years later and 1863 brought news of emancipation, victory at Gettysburg and the formation of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of volunteer free black men, a hope perhaps for former slaves to eventually join in.  Jim knew they were taking applications from free black Canadians, the thought was why not him?  Maryland is a border state, loyal to the Union.  Why not Jim?  Instead I am a fugitive from freedom and justice and not a government by proclamation. 

Allyn then offered: I am a pacifist.  I do not believe in war.  I believe in family, I don’t believe in fighting.  I am a woman and a mother.

So Jim spoke: I didn’t start this war.  But I sure as heck can do something to end it.  And bring freedom to over four million of my people as I am doing it.  If freedom rings in the Deep South, it will ring throughout the South, everywhere.  That’s something worth fighting for!

She responds: I believe in peace.  I sacrificed our home for it.  I think I understand my husband and his ideals.  But the war is civil, it is not about slavery, it’s about politics.  Rise up above it!  Rise above it all. Free Bird.

As they would argue well into the night, with little resolution; it meant a revolution was stored in the machinery of a “civil” war. National politics finds its way into the corners of every aspect of our lives. 

7.
Two years later and the war was over, Jim never got his chance to fight.  Later that year Congress abolished slavery throughout the entire United States, an accomplishment, but not the harbinger of a change of southern hearts.  We knew it would take more, much more, to change the minds and souls of white folk throughout all the American states, a united front against a wave of indifference was needed. 

True, one step at a time.  The assassination death of the President did not help matters any.  Reconstruction suffered.  Allyn cautioned going back as Jim was ready to go.  She thought she had found a home, a new home, in Canada.  I was in school and doing well.  Why disrupt a good thing?  Think of me, the child!

Jim did not like the winters even though his fingers remained firmly attached!  And he always felt he was a refugee in Canada; not at home.   But he would give in as he always did, to his lady’s “foreign” preferences.

8.
Years passed and I grew up to become a woman, as Allyn feared I would.  I followed my mother into the household trade of housekeeping. Employed not too distant from mother, we shared a common bond for servitude. 

 Eventually I married and had three children, two boys and a girl, as mother’s health began to fail her.  Then surprisingly in the late winter of 1881, she passed away.  Complications due to jaundice and consumption (perhaps modern day TB) were listed as the cause of death, but not having a male heir to carry her name may have been a contributing factor to her ill health and lack of well-being.

9.
I would live-in with my step-father who was anxious to return to America before he passed away.  He was forty-seven-years-old and he was shocked by my mother’s untimely demise.  He wanted to go home.

I did my best to make him comfortable in his twenty-year-old “new” residence…  Some memories never fade.  Like the colza, the warm summer weather, the heat, and the Spanish moss shade.

The segregated railway cars were new, unnecessary when Black folk were all on the plantation, and not a problem to comply.  Makes sense to me. 

I decided to help Jim go home. I made arrangements by train to travel to Chicago, a boomtown in the northern Midwest.  Jim was glad to be back in America, though the winters were still a test.  I traveled with him and did my best to settle into our new home. 

10.
Chicago is known as the windy city, but today it is the “window” city, so many tall buildings with so many tall windows!  The loop around downtown is a sight to see, we agree, the 1871 Great Fire sparked a change.

And the practical passenger elevator made the revolution in height possible, a growth in vertical dimension.  Everything going up!

The tall building is thought of as a twentieth century American invention, but its precursor can be found in nineteenth century Chicago, post fire, a need to be vertical in the great plains of the Midwest.  Someone once suggested that Chicago is tall because it had to be to counter the anonymity of the plain.  And so it is…  tall.   

11.  Eva Davis
The civil war was five years over when I was born, mother remembers the promise that America claims it cannot afford, a guarantee of degree, a word of honor, the forty acres and a mule will be remembered by her descendants.

And she remembers the days of slavery.  Was I spared?  Perhaps, spared the hate of yellow rape, the presumption of flesh willing and available…

And so, with the end of the war also came the promises of a land promising and willing. The irony of real life drama, a structuring of words of good craft and goodness, a dilemma of textured 1-11, and the plys of would, we knew and perhaps we can.

A promise, to make good, a promise that was heard round the ‘hood, a good neighbor, a fine gentleman’s agreement, not backed by the administration or administrations that will succeed successively.  Success and Happiness!  These are hollow words for empty actions, the satisfaction that white folk would never wait to see.

The plantation still thrived, hiring workers to pick the cotton, we worked a rented farm sharecropping to pay the rent, a life not unlike slavery, but in name. I remember, as a young child, listening to father count the wages, listening to the boss-man lay out the rule, a tool of social control…  An I don’t seem to know what to do.  Nothing changes.

12.
The work was the work, it was all they knew.  The sordid knees that creaked with age, a solid back stooped over with bending and pulling with the bleeding fingers, a cotton plant that seemed to know, but not wanting to give in, the thorns of bittersweet and tasteful measure, a calculated loss found out years later.

It would be for another century to free black hands from the prison that is called King Cotton. 

As I grew older I was called by name, no longer “child” but now Eva, or Eva Davis, no longer with foolish dreams of princesses and knights, but the dream of my mother “Forty Acres and a Mule,” was the last great hope of my existence.  The Panic of 1873 still lingered in the remote corners of the old cotton marketplace, a depression really, a glut and a lack of movement.

The rights enumerated in the Fourteenth Amendment sound hollow in the real-life atmosphere of tobacco road.  No Spanish colza here, the fear is still palpable and real.  No one dares vote in Mississippi, so true of Alabama too.  All the parishes of Louisiana see no black voters.  History may be made?  Eva says “Okay.”

The rights written are not a guarantee of the rights protected and supported by whites.  For years, decades really, the vote, the franchise was a holy grail for the few. Solid upright and upstanding citizens believed that blacks needed to prove themselves worthy before the rolls could be filled.  Taxes, taxes, taxes…  And we agreed!

It was a life as a solid citizen, stalwart, reliable, solid.

Then 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment, meaning women have the right to vote.  It’s a protest vote; a political process; a shot across the bow.  Eva Davis Goes to the Polls!  And she is fifty years old!  It’s a new beginning, a here and now.   

Can one woman, one empowered voter, one citizen bring about a political avalanche of before unseen dimensions?  Nobody knows… It’s all quite new, not ugly, but beautiful.

13. Epilogue
With the Nineteenth Amendment we close the book on the American Century, a book seldom read or acknowledged. The passing of warriors may be found in freedom’s trail, the soldiers of fortunate waters.  As the waters flow over the dam, the Charles River does overflow, a waterway, a watercourse, the river sings of the progress we may celebrate, a celebration of action and the here and now of a new day.   

One hundred years of civil rights, a stultified obstruction is moved aside, a way away, the here and the now, a movement meant to define a better future. One hundred years and the vote has come, an American Century if there ever was one!

And the freedom of the enslaved, a fact of historical dimension, a freedom for the victims of rape, a yellow truth of poetic legion, warrior legions and equality supporters, a place in time and a turn of the screw.

The American Century, a scent of rosewater and white rose petals, the appearance of willow branches for Allyn.  From horse and buggy to the railroad to the automobile, change comes fast for some, and eventually for others, a river flows through it, a truth and a future love. 

Three Sisters look for daylight amidst mourning, a blue-gray development and the deployment of soldiers, a war to end slavery and a struggle to be free and equal citizens, with the franchise and the power to use it. And so as three sisters spanning a century stand up to yellow odors and rapacious and rapier like wit, a fence post of quilted northern, and a quilt of southern gifts, make a giving tree with insider belts of smelts and sole.

Yes we knew, but not always letting on, we protect our sources and our resources, protecting the family in silent and sufferable pain, a gain in future dividends, an investment in quiet sanity.   Hannity?  What do you say?

The reality of the three sisters is only hinted at her in this story, a truck or lorry, the Risperdal settling in.  With temperature and privacy, they will make a grand offering, the odd cantering of the knight-mare horse at night.    


--11/25/16