In the stony glistening woods, we gathered
after dark, never considering ourselves

slaves then. Wet hay and blankets to muffle
secrets and dampen all the shouting

in our souls. A pot, upside down, to make
noise quiet. A lookout, in case magic

failed. We’d slip free and hide fast
in shining clearing, a moony congress woven

from dim hopes. We’d chant the ocean small
and paddle our way home. We’d pray for snakes

to save us from these ghosty men with guns
and crops. Old rhythms carried spirits, old

rhythms eclipsed facts. Witches and weasels
may have caught us, sold us, shipped us—but they

never owned us. Clotted tongues we’d been given
were now freed, binding hymns were unloosened

into blues. What did we know? What did we
know of hate’s austere and lonely offices,

of strangers debating our fates? We made
music. We made trees dance and birds tame. We

made freedom rhyme with misery, cotton
cushioning the flesh of our bright darkness.