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  • Writer's pictureLinda Beatrice Brown

To Speak Upon the Ashes

To Speak Upon the Ashes

“Then I will speak upon the ashes”* --Sojourner Truth

After the burning what?

Didn’t we believe if we sang the right songs

and said the right words all would come right?


Didn’t we live in the richest country in the world?

Didn’t freedom always ring here? Wasn’t the cop on the corner there to protect us?

And now Andy Hardy’s father is not the judge,

the cowboy has ridden into the sunset with his spoils, and Beaver’s family fights over their inheritance.

The candy shop has gone out of business, and the easy sweets we reached for are gone.

The doll house is burning,

and we didn’t learn what we needed to know in kindergarten.

We stand upon the ashes of our innocence,

an innocence that feels deliberate, deaf to honesty, and warnings, and lost to the flames.

Like Sojourner we must speak upon the ashes.

But within the smoke that veils our denial, there are messages of hope,

hope that we remember we are family,

hope that our ignorance will lead to our wisdom, hope that we remember that fire consumes and creates, destroys and strengthens, finishes and forges.

To stand upon the ashes and speak is to have a great gift.

We are called now to become the bird,

the bird that is made of ashes, impossible to destroy;

to become the bird, inheritor of the eternal, messenger of love and herald of hope.

We are called now to speak truth, to reclaim that inner fire, that living flame, to break silence, to act, and like Sojourner, to shake off the ashes and to rise once more into the light of the sun.

*(Words said by Sojourner Truth when told that the building where she would speak would be burned down to keep her from speaking.)

© Linda Beatrice Brown

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