Row, Man!

Row, Man!

To my Father

 

Children in cages hell-bound, the Devil was grinning, transatlantic Share-in-Sin boats ferrying stolen wealth, drowning and flushing souls in currents spinning

 

Bloodthirsty feasts trailed in their wake as undertakers ordained by demons who had in their possession board games to play with the plank: ouija roll and die, pawns to easily sacrifice, jump into the Styx

 

The Devil was laughing in his gondola of gold and rum and molasses as lead oarsman guiding the stern and was hailing Acheron’s fleet through the flames that churned

 

Families were cut at the bind by the Reaper’s scythe as spirits lost severed limbs: hands for drumming the djembe’s roar from motherlands, feet for the rhythms grateful for dance

 

But there were hearts that kept defiance in faster time than the beating down of the whip, than the meting out of the scourge’s punishment, than the flesh wounds that tore and ripped

 

And reached higher than the ships upon the scarlet gyres

 

Rowmen, rowing through the lake of fire

To rather row than burn of ire

Rowmen, row and never tire

Rather row than burn of ire

 

Slave traitors and traders now among brethren betrayers, overseers were hellish fiends, fugitive dreams risked the pyre, the snitching, the noose, the castigation and so the estimation of consequences for literacy or learning to read made books of no use

 

“Play the fiddle, dance a jig, pick the cotton” is what Master said, but men still lived in those fields, complied, yet stubbornly held onto the African within until the day that they died, head held up high into the eyes of God as

 

They reached higher than those ships upon the scarlet gyres

 

Rowmen, rowing through the lake of fire

To rather row than burn of ire

Rowmen, row and never tire

Rather row than burn of ire

 

Hell’s police hounds, Hades’ gates in bars of racial hates, hellions in white gowns bloodied the beauty of your history and slashed through the silk Kente cloth of your ancestral liberty in charred crosses where what was found made the Devil’s laughing sound –

 

Lynched men condemning the gallows in their innocence, slave ships whose passengers sharks would bury, silent raped women and light skinned children for higher auction,

‘Massa get de meat and we gets de bone’: a good slave would heed that caution –

 

Helpless faces in pages of suppressed books inflicted their cries to the tears in your sight

Incited you to quake the “white man” with fear and the Master, terrorize

As you snatched his lash away and became self-actualized, free slave to mastery

And the hatred for their unsanctioned evil and pardoning lie still beams in your eyes

 

Reach higher than the ships upon the scarlet gyres

 

Rowman, row through the lake of fire

Rather row than burn of ire

Rowman, row and never tire

Rather row than burn of ire

 

Hell raiser, hellion, hell would praise her for the torment of the furnace in her lips, turning you to ash with every thoughtless tongue lash

 

And whether you were artistic prodigy, whether you conquered the read of the Odyssey, or whether you were to grow into warrior and exhibit mightiness of a brave,

 

Mother’s harping and cruel obsessing over every mistake, Mother’s insecurities and enslaved beliefs, Mother’s fear of confessing her maternal instinct: extinct, mattered most at the end of the day, but voices of your forefathers in the sea wrapped those wounds and would say

 

Reach higher than the pain of her words, she is our grieving daughter, descendant of a people destroyed upon ships of scarlet gyres

 

Rowman, row through the lake of fire

Rather row than burn of ire

Rowman, row and never tire

Rather row than burn of ire

 

Sweltering from past and present embers of hellfire, the Devil is waiting for a laugh, but the boats and the souls they drowned keep spinning in your memory, kept driving you to slave at the page for mending the rift between you and the artistry in your veins

 

You axed the plank, fought back the chains within and now you’ve broken them and surpassed even your own expectations to win and now

 

Stand, head held high into God’s eyes as testimony to the indomitable strength

 

Of the African within that does not bend nor bow nor blend in with cowards that shrink from courage that transcends hate, the draw of ‘assimilate’, and fends off demons anxious to spend your worth as another statistic – ‘worthless, feeble minded at birth’

 

Reach higher for the casualties who sacrificed life upon the ships of the scarlet gyres

 

And late into the night…

 

Rowman, row through the lake of fire

Rather row than burn of ire

Rowman, row and never tire

Rather row than burn of ire

 

© 2014. Asha Gowan. All Rights Reserved.

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Asha Gowan

I am an aspiring poet, novelist, musician, visual artist, and a die hard jazz enthusiast (partial to writing). I did not have a choice in the matter as both of my parents are creative to the core. Van Gogh beautifully painted the artist's portrait with his words: "The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others." I've made that ideal the primary catalyst for my work. Born as one of nature's esthetes, beauty is the goal of every song, every poem, every piece of art. Beauty that will touch the hearts and minds of others. I try to design my art to be healing and empathetic. I study and find intriguing people of all kinds, which informs a lot of my insights. I've drawn inspiration on the art of positivity, of spiritual uplifting from writers like Throeau, John Muir, Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman), the psalmist David, etc. Seeking a unique verve in my style, I make thorough investigations of all sorts of art and challenge myself to the hilt for the growth of my ingenuity. I am eager to share my musings with everyone here and wish to disseminate them. Thank you!