And still… (aka: Color of Sorrow)
The back of my love’s mind is a seething, bitter taste of fermented fruit that fights with joy. He has described to me dark secrets only whispered for fear reality will crumble into nothing but explosions of fired hate. He struggles to embrace love in a two-step dance of hope as he is blocked from the incline of power, that sneaky career slope of smiles and mirrors that betray his senses with their shim-sham promises. Again and again he must swallow the taste of rust in his throat, but perseveres, believes still, he can somehow beat them at their shell game.
The cocky blue jay screeches in the backyard next to the pigeon shed, two dozen cooing and pecking pigeons look up and then turn their heads away. He thinks, at least there is honesty with his birds.
The remarkableness of him, another black man continuing still, fighting to hold to faith he no longer speaks aloud, but holds to as engine through decades of barren fields of promises, while boys and girls are still ripped from their families, husbands and brothers are slaughtered on cement altars of hatred, women’s dreams are skewered on bruises and red hot treacheries.
His house has no front lawn, instead, tan decorator rocks and soft green pebbles circle in designs to present the house as worth the monthly cost of living behind invisibly barred windows.
His memory shelters shameful stories and decades of secret histories, he holds them as sacred, in remembrance of so many splintered dreams. As he readies to step into the daily depths, he recalls those holy journeys, and whispers his vow to not let them fade into the world’s self-righteous rewritten memory.
Twenty years working for the high school district, a lone black man, to assuage the white administration’s conundrum over the conflicts students of color find on their passage through the mean hallways, to the gates of completion and a flimsy piece of paper that promises nothing.
He is nourished by the people who came before, each one with their own tale of unimaginable anguish, but still showed up, persisted with determined dreams in their voices, brave passions in their loins, and resolutely continued on. He reveres their courageous generosity toward life, feeds off their inspiration and turns to his own life with comrades who continue on, who remember, who know the dangers, face the daemons and, still, like him, embrace tomorrow, its disillusions and continue on.
A small group of students embodying an array of skin tones, wait, loosely gathered, reluctant to enter the daunting white hallways of school power, waiting for mettle enough. A sound… they turn as he appears, offers silent courage, and together they enter, ready to see who turns their backs in the unknown of another echoing day.
© Sharon Lopez Mooney, “Lonely dark”, originally published in Brown Bag LLC, Issue #6 Spring, ed. Benji Knight, Knoxville, TN 2023