Redemption songs still haven’t ended.
(I’m sorry, please forgive me.)
The Middle Passage is replaced
By highways between cities
And county jails. Taking voices
From one locale to trump population
Votes for another–at least I’m
Considered 5-fifths of a person this time.
I play Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”
On my harmonica, the guy next to me
Supplies the words. He grins with crooked
Teeth. Is he an ally in this war? He’s white,
I’m black–or so we’ve been told.
Told by whom? The real enemy:
The ones pointing rifles at us
From atop guard towers as we’re
Herded out of the bus; the ones outside
The barbed wire-lined walls.
Well, I thought we were allies.
He’s opportunistic. Outside these walls
He has an extra layer of protection,
Where I have on additional clothing
Of suspicion. I’ll live with that as a truth
Although I don’t want to.
In the middle of the second verse,
I switch to Bobby “Blue” Bland’s
“Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.”
Surprisingly, the vocalist doesn’t miss a note.
A. J. Hayes
Give a poet a pen