The Dilemma of Job, or Hope into the Wilderness (henry 7 reneau, jr)

The Great Migration is the parable of dispossession pursuing a Northern star. Leaving rock-salted sorrow to come to terms with dignity deferred. Leaving hate, too long in place, that had tread over Jim Crow crippled bodies, that had taken without asking, & mayhem-ed. Leaving, with no pot to piss in.

They filed from rural patches of sharecrop-spent dirt & Parchman work farms, from cotton-field holla’ to electrified Chicago blues, from segregation to ‘I Am A Man’ & Detroit assembly-line dreams of reinvention. From minstrels to uptown cabarets to Broadway. From jump the broom to rent parties: a citified brand of jook joint in up-north ghetto gatherings. From So. Baptist shake, rattle & roll to ‘Thank God almighty, I’m free at last,’ fantasizing a ‘formula’ to the Mountaintop.

They brought catfish, greens & cornbread, blood-bucket daddy Blues & mama Gospel.

They carried battered hope in bundled cardboard boxes & rope-tied satchels, in dreams that convinced them to hallelujah-amen! the risen Son, even as the legitimacy of their pain struggled helplessly at the seams of the Veil. Darkness seeking light living darkness, every kind of sorrow in every voice they heard, & rarely judged by what their hands could do, but rather, by how they looked or spoke.

They came, with stories that spoke the generational hum of persistence, the endeavor to persevere, despite the ‘outside gaze’ that measured beauty in increments of silk or sackcloth. They came, a threadbare, black reflection of white entitlement: the upturned, razor-blade nose & racist cop.

They came, in Pullman carriage, in hope-and-a-shoestring beat-up cars, in get-there-soon, North Star-true—one foot, then the other, like runaway slaves: the O.G. triathletes on the Underground Railroad.

They came, like wandering Jews, drawn to the discriminating flame that seduced by combustion, that warmed desire & distilled a ghost of a chance from the segregated liquor of trial & tribulation—flashes of silvered hope, darting through & around a gale force wind, howling back into the heart of the question: are we there yet?


A photo of Henry Reneau

Photo by Mercedes Herrera

henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words in conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, free verse that breaks a rule every day, illuminated by his affinity for disobedience: a phoenix-flux of red & gold immolation that blazes from his heart, like a chambered bullet exploded through change, come to implement the fire. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, he has self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and his work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.