I am chained.
I am chained just as my ancestral history has always foretold. It has been my past, and present, it will forever be my future.
I look at the house I built, one that represented the world I knew. The house was one I had made from joy –– with words from a president promising our freedom. I nailed every board, aligned every shingle on the roof, and tended to every weed and root.
But now I am in the paddy wagon, a chained brother to either of my sides. The only thing that defines me are the clothes that lie across my back. My trousers as black as my skin, my coat as red as the crimson flowing freely from my wounds.
Now, I can see what the house really looks like.
A brother on my left, twitching with restrained trepidation and frustration, knowing we are about to relive the lives of our forefathers. Another on my right, head hung so low, as if he has already been suspended in the trees, lungs unable to take a struggle breath.
I know that we must look like our kin –– lifeless behind iron bars, duly watching the sun move across the sky before we’re locked away, fading into persecution. Once we enter that jail, our steps will be shuffled by the weights attached to our ankles as we plow fields and chip boulders. Subjugation takes many forms, this one called incarceration.
The floorboards are loose.
Our ancestry is a curse, and no chained punishment can be just to a broken law. Our criminality is a burden, a poisonous residue left behind by the serpent of slavery. We have committed an immoral sin and Jim Crow is frowning on us today.
They have locked us up and are moments away from throwing the key. The barred window of the wagon torturous, reminding us that freedom has always been within sight, but could never be grasped.
The roof decrepit.
Here I stand, waiting in the wagon, waiting for them to take us away –– for the ship to sail to the place our masters called the New World. Copper chains locking us in place, wrists weak with the weight, minds chipped away with oppression.
The yard overgrown with weeds and roots.
Only now, chained with my brothers, do I see my house for what it is. The floorboards aren’t pristine granite, but rotten wood. The roof does not protect us from the elements but funnels water into my home. The yard is filled with roots and weeds, fighting for control. The house is without purpose –– no use, no hope, no structure.
I slowly take the hands of my fellow brothers; I have nothing at this moment but them. All we can do is gaze outside the bars of the wagon, watching the last glimpses of a world we once considered free.
This piece was submitted to the Avenue's Literary Corner. The section features poems, personal essays, short stories and other creative works from local writers.
Ian Jackson is an aspiring author, born and raised in Tampa, FL. He has been published in Zephyr Magazine and has received Honorable Mention in the Words on Canvas competition.