Shonté Daniels1955: My grandmother heads to New Jersey
to heal torn ankles. Her feet feel cratered
by the dirt roads she’s worn herself out on, fleeing.
Please, she says, let work and love be plentiful
in the north. Southern swamps could not break her
dark knees pointing towards New Jersey.
Grandpa waits, scale dressed, sharp tongue’d in the city
where they’ll find a hole to make a family. Granny’s gator
husband does not know the difference between running and fleeing,
or how she can do both. His bellow lives in Granny’s
stomach, a constant humming of her past. Decades later
I hear her low gospel voice in my head, rolling smoke in New Jersey.
Their love is a stench that lingers, phlegm he spits through his teeth.
Grandpa holds his hands out, either to welcome his wife home, or
to catch her mid-flight to stop her from her fleeing.
When she’s made it, she will see her new home is still Mississippi
with less acres. Could life up here really be much greater?
She settles her body—family bound—in New Jersey
but I hear her humming an old tune, music in fleeing.
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