My Brother's Pain

by Nika Cruce

The orange-pink of the late autumn sky
framed the old Hickory up on the berm.
It could have been a lovely night.
Crickets chirped in harmony
to the cracking, twisted-leather cord
as it beat in rhythm.
The bass moans joined the eerie tune
for another hundred scores.
Then a dirge of silence.
His sisters huddled 'round to warm him.
They cursed the debt of life
and prayed for rain.
I held his face against my bosom
and cried, for he was denied
the dignity of death.
>From the seams of flesh oozed scarlet,
which melted into the dew-damp clay
of the dank cell.
I sneaked upstairs to tell the big man--
father of them all--the one who wore
the iron halter.
The half-moon, peeking through the planks,
whispered hope, then stepped aside
to wait its turn again.
I longed for the fire of the sun
to burn away the images
of the grave injustice.
Forbidden words bore grief
breathed in the soft, silky voice
of the master's daughter.
There were no erotic, ivory-blended scenes,
but simple truths and erudition--
blown into the wind.
Dark clouds billowed an angry vengeance,
swept the earth to cleanse its sins;
I welcomed their rain.
The damp salt would see no shovel,
but I stole enough to bathe
my brother's wounds.
Yes, the white salt burned strong
but helped to heal the open sores
that left deep scars.
Those scars protected the tender sinew,
yet left indelible memories
lest we forget.
Each morning's light shone upon new wisdom
and dispersed the dark shadows
of my brother's pain.
Mr. Abraham came and danced among us
and promised the daughters freedom--
to love and to learn.
The sons graced the halls of knowledge,
locked out the vanity of hollow
souls of the past.
Harsh lessons did not fade as a sunset,
were not erased by darkness.
It should have been a lovely night.
And I, the master's daughter, held close
to my breast the book . . .
never opened again.


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My Brother's Pain by Nika Cruce

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