Saturday, May 6, 2017

"I'm On My Way..."

On April 14, 1978, while teaching at Creighton University, I wrote this poem for the Creighton University African American Student Association’s “Recognition Night.”  As I prepare to do a blessing for the Southern Illinois Black Pre-Commencement Ceremony this spring (May 6, 2017), I find that this poem still has some strength to share.  And the time is always appropriate to hear Mahalia Jackson declare, “I’m falling and rising, but I’m on my way....”

Mark the eternally
Redeeming fact
the shadow suffocates
your hope
past the lightning terror
of the demon days
unremembered passage
from home to hell
mute of drum
fashioning banquets from
glacial wrongs
                            Eden was
redeemed in songs

an arthritic alien
hungering greed    ripped
families apart
                            the soul
was mastered by the shadow’s
to deny    and    shatter
to garble and grind
truth into ashes
the verdict of death:
make them blind
the blanket of the crime
to the shaking shoulders
of the bent and broken
let the shadow haunt   and   terrify
let all decency be deprived

until   freedom   spoke   in
the raining of a gun

the delusion of the shadow
was seen as fog
stinging fear     retreated
and the sweat-tasting hymn
of jubilee
                   caught the rhythm
of the drum

in spite of death
still we come
                           we choose
to shed the curse laid
on our back
                        and when
the shadow threatens


  1. I read this a couple of times to feel the real impact. I like the line, "we chose to shed the curse laid on our back"...that's Spirit's message in Mahalia singing- "I'm on my way..."

  2. echoes Ellison, too. his Shadow and Act and your poem allude to looming figures as well as power to influence. one may have less power, but never no influence.