Thursday, December 20, 2018

"Blind Tom Plays for Confederate Troops, 1863" by Tyehimba Jess



      The slave’s hands dance free, unfettered, flying

      across ivory, feet stomping toward

      a crescendo that fills the forest pine,

      reminding the Rebs what they’re fighting for—

      black, captive labor. Tom, slick with sweat, shows

      a new trick: Back turned to his piano,

      he leans like a runner about to throw

      himself to freedom through forest bramble—

      until he spreads his hands behind him. He

      hitches fingertips to keys, hauls Dixie

      slowly out of the battered upright’s teeth

      like a work song dragged across cotton fields,

      like a plow, weighted and dirty, ringing

      with a slaver’s song at master’s bidding.

Source of the text – Tyehimba Jess, Olio.  Wave Books, 2016, p. 15.

TJB: Flow and staccato alternate in this sonnet of the surreal unforgettable narrative image of a slave playing his heart out to please the Rebs.

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