It could have been the way the Southern man
in his navy suit and skin rocked
along the church wall, swaying to the tambourine
like an old man wobbling to blues.

Or the way Sister Nettie got the spirit
all in her feet and behind, quick-stepping
like an ant hill was under her toes,
shaking her head back and forth in disbelief—

Or the way Deacon Jones raised
both hands like the police were there,
and started pacing the pulpit—
a foreign street—looking for Jesus.

But something quick came over the church
when Walter's voice slid to his navel
and plucked a piece of umbilical cord,
tugging the notes from generations gone.

And a sister lost in the crowd screamed,
like when children have their first babies,
and screeching floated over the pews
and took the congregation rocking

Back to the first cry we made
in this freedom-stealing country—
the first shout on the auction block,
and we tried to clap our way out of memory,
to stomp out the sound like sparks of fire
but it was already voiced (and the seer had said,
this child would be different).

From Singing the Bones Together by Angela Shannon. Copyright © 2003 by Angela Shannon. Published 2003 by Tia Chucha Press, distributed by Northwestern University Press. Reprinted by permission of Tia Chucha Press. All rights reserved.