Another Juneteenth – A Sestina by Robert Earl Price

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Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  June 19th  is the day in 1865 when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

The order read, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

What became known as general order number 3 was delivered two and a half years after president Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; this late arrival of the order to end slavery caused cynics in the newly emancipated community to create the term “Juneteenth.”: which meant something extremely late or likely never to arrive.

General Order number 3 is the only known emancipation notice ever given to Negroes.  Imagine the transition from slave to African American without recompense or consideration of citizenship, without a thank you for 250 years of free labor and no share of the massive economy built on your back.

This place a nugget of gold in a sea of clay

Today we stand on precious ground

A stoned arch bridging many an uncertain day

A monument for shoulder-to-the-grindstone will

We come to bear witness and to bare our hearts

Here where the past is buried in the marrow of bones

 

We are the wind chimed clank and clang of dry bones

A chalice of wisdom from fired clay

Reverent music poured into open hearts

Many colors carpet this hallowed ground

This is a cornerstone of will

The founders’ foresight promised us this day

 

Raise the pennants and praise the day

The drummer lives in incus bones

Trees planted by the waters of will

A joyful insistence encrypted in this clay

Let hurrahs and hallelujahs shake the ground

And stir the longing in our hearts

 

Ella scatting an anthem for our hearts

Spirit movers, seekers of a breaking day

The visionary’s broom sweeping this ground

This monument to long buried bones

Tread carefully over this layered clay

Built by communal warriors of one will

 

On the road to glory by grace and will

The boon of freedom glowing in our hearts

Moisten the yard and tamp down the clay

Fry the fish and fixings to celebrate the day

And set the legends sifting through our bones

Our dancing DNA moonwalking on sacred ground

 

Today a tower of tolerance stands on hard won ground

Today we acknowledge the power of a righteous will

Today we refresh dreams and replenish the legacy of bones

Today our heroes rest in the shelter of our hearts

Today a day like no other day

Today we patina the world in a crust of clay

 

Praise to this persistent will, that seized this day

Protect this swirling ground and blood mottled clay

Place the merit bones of our past safe in the trove of our hearts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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