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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fever




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Fever
            for the house, and the spirits, at 203 S. Randolph St.

1.
I’m thinking of you tonight, Diego Evans.
Twilight eases over my shoulders like
an indigo cloak; I walk past the two-over-
two brick house you built with your wife,
Jane, in the late 1840s – complete with basement

kitchen.  Did the two of you sit on that porch
of a June evening, watch fireflies
play hide and seek over the graves
of the adjacent cemetery? It wasn’t famous
then – Stonewall Jackson’s headstone

was still granite inside a mountain, uncut;
Jackson himself touring New York,
visiting Niagara Falls, reporting for court
martial duty at Fort Ontario. You, Diego –
Black and free, successful merchant,

studying law: Lexington wasn’t big enough
for you, your children, your dreams.
Did you see it coming, Jane – Civil War?
Freedom’s fickle, no guarantees.
Colonization was the answer: to segregation,

discrimination, life confined on the Black
side of a small Southern town. You sold
your beautiful house on South Randolph
Street. Emigrated. You needed a whole country,
one with a name you could ring like a bell. 

You would settle for nothing less.

2.
List of Emigrants by the Liberia Packet, Capt. Howe, from Norfolk, Va.,  January 26, 1850, for Monrovia and Bassa, Liberia:

No. 107 Diego Evans.  39.  Trader.  Reads.  Free.
No.108 Jane, his wife. 30.  Reads.  Free.
No. 109 James H. F.  8.  Reads. Free.
No. 110 Richard P.  7.  Reads. Free.
No. 111 Lavinia Ann. 5.  Free.
No. 112 John. 4.  Free.


3.
Some interesting services were held at Lexington, Va.,
on the occasion of the departure of the emigrants

from that county, mentioned in another column,
which we have not been able heretofore to notice. 

Our correspondent says, “We had a farewell meeting
on their account on Wednesday the 19th in the Presbyterian

Church, which called a large audience.  Col. Smith
of the Military Institute, and Rev. Dr. Junkin, President

of Washington College, addressed the congregation
in effective speeches on colonization, and Maj. Preston

addressed the emigrants in very appropriate terms. 
They were seated together on the right of the pulpit.

The Pastor of the Church, the Rev. W.S. White,
also addressed the meeting, and led in prayer.

The following original hymns, composed
for the occasion were sung; the first by the people

led by the choir, and the last by the emigrants themselves. 
The whole services were impressive, and, I believe,

of good effect for the cause.  signed, Miss Margaret Junkin.


4.
…Not poor and empty-handed,
            as first to us they came,
With superstition branded,
            And want and woe and shame, --
Are we the race returning
            Back to their native sod,
But with our laws – our learning –
            Our freedom – and our God!

5.
Mary J. Henry, daughter of John V. Henry, wrote
to friends in Lexington, “We rented a house on Broad

Street and Diego rented a house on the water side,
which all the old settlers told him not, but

he thought he could live there – being a good place
to sell his goods.  But all his family took the fever.

We took the children home and they all got better,
but Diego and his wife departed this life.”

6.
Ours may be a lot of trials,
            Bravely we will meet them all,
For the sake of our dear children,
            We will bear what may befall.

Dear Virginia! Dear Virginia!
Loved, Oh loved, whe’er we roam,
Dear Virginia, loved Virginia!
Farewell – farewell, dear old home.

7.
Liberia was like a fever, Diego.
Colonization is contagious –
spread by fear of free Black
bodies walking unchained
through a white world,

multiplied by The Fugitive
Slave Act’s long arm shadowing
behind those bought or born free.
Frederick Douglass railed
against this “return” to Mother Africa,

fearing mass deportations –
Jane, did you watch your son
and daughters sleep at night
in this house, await that loud
knock at the door? I wonder,

Diego, what was the difference
between Liberia,
and a reservation? “Let us buy you
a country,” they said, “ –sorry, sorry
for all that slavery mess  –”

what they really meant: slavery
for you is safety for us;
your freedom is our worst
nightmare. They set this fever
on you, squeezed so hard

you had no place else to go.
Colonization is contagious.
Liberia was like
a fever. Catch it,
or be caught.



Deborah A. Miranda


Note:  I only know this house because, for a brief time, my therapist had an office here. I'm grateful that this house was a site of some serious healing in my life. I walk past it frequently - it's only about 2 blocks from where I live. It has been a family home, a rental house, apartments, Baptist Student Center, Food Pantry. The stories it carries haunt me. dm

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Rendezvous

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A waxing gibbous moon rises during the hours between noon
and sunset; sets in the wee hours after midnight.  In that window
of time, sit out on your porch and look to the southern sky;

more than half-lighted but less than full, this moon is eager,
bright as firefly lust in summer. Focus your gaze on the moon’s
tattooed surface: Sinus Iridum – Bay of Rainbows – surrounded

by the ragged Jura Mountains. Imagine walking across that dry sea,
hiking up those cliffs. Imagine looking back across the void
at Earth, in all her blue and green glory.  Now, just below, a little

to the east of the moon, Jupiter settles like a jewel, pierces your eye
with June brilliance. You think, no human hand has ever cast
such a pendant as these two, moon and planet dazzling darkness,

suspended in the hollow of night’s throat. Notice Corvus the Crow,
who watches from his southwest perch; he covets shiny things.
One night only; in 24 hours, Jupiter glides away. Spica steps up,

asks the moon for this dance. Luna accepts graciously. Planet, star,
it makes no difference to her. All she asks is a virtuosity of light,
an understanding of celestial rhythm. You could learn from her.

Deborah A. Miranda

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Heart Murmur


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The doctor says she hears you, a little whoosh-weet
where there should be lub-DUB.  Apparently, you’ve
requested an ECG – though you never asked me. 
What else are you whispering in there, my heart,
when no one is listening?  Do you mumble
about lost loves, old dogs let go, the way loneliness
rakes you over the coals?  Do you sit and sigh
about childhood, the negligence endured like a storm,
slammed around by the cruelty of so-called adults?
My heart, do you talk in your sleep?  Call out
names, thrash in that nightmare where you must
save all the babies, over and over? Gossip epigenetic
ramblings from the maternal lineage of an ancestral
beating?  Poor thing.  Worn out from all this work
and worry.  Now, like some ancient crone in her rocker,
you mutter and stutter to yourself, incomplete sentence
here, cuss word there.  I’m sorry.  I could have taken
more walks, kicked this sugar addiction, kept diabetes
at bay with a big stick.  I should have tried harder.
I’m listening now, my heart.  Blame everyone
else, but you belong to me.  If the world has broken
you, I’ll hold you, sweet heart, I’ll sing you a lullaby.
Dear heart, grumble away your woes, and I,
I will listen like a stethoscope pressed to your body,
the silkiest of steel; I will remind you that the kindness
of strangers is like gold dust brushed into your cracks. 
Together, we’ll learn the art of mending.  I’ll burnish
bright those scars mapped in your muscle, corazón,
and you can murmur sweet nothings in my ear.

Deborah A. Miranda

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Covfefe Nation





It buzzes the room but we can’t
locate its bizarrely fixed wings
or zigzag exoskeleton gymnastics –

we just hear buzz buzz
buzz from behind us, angry thwacks
in the dusty corner, sputtering against

cracked, glazed windows; we can’t
track the hard, emerald body whizzing
past our faces as we gasp

and lurch and trip, our gaze
racketing off the plaster
walls, always one step behind

in a maze we can’t follow –
zing! just beyond our fingertips,
a crazed loop-de-loop form,

barnstormer refusing to land,
a berserker on high, humming
the brazen hymns of a zealot

who doesn’t have the balls
to lay down and surrender
or just
zip
it up.