A Wading

Many Black people that I know are afraid of the Ocean
not the textbook definition of feeling fear
but those who draw near
are only willing to wade
They are afraid 
to make waves
in a history that may sweep them away into the undercurrent of history repeating itself
because screaming help
didn’t assist our ancestors 
in fact the wading in the water
was a way to wash away a human’s scent
to leave dog’s noses no evidence 
of them being there
a passage way to freedom calling their names so quietly
only a soul could hear 
to draw near to that history is a stirring in our bones
an undertone 
that we put on a mute to silence what was never right
sometimes to win a fight
you get out of sight and yearn to be seen
beyond the horizon 
farther than the possible limit of sight
beyond what one was able to foresee
So in this time, there will be no repeat of history
We know where we came from
We know our destinations
No more plantations
We’re on a stay-cation
for a duration 
of our own imagination
We move in fascination
like the flow of water
We are the sons and daughters of our forefathers
Who left traces of themselves through blood, sweat, and tears
for years
of painful yesterdays
Imagine being enslaved during a slave trade and thought of a commodity 
Standing on docks
An auction block
of people of African descent 
Who didn’t know the possibility of an escape in those days
But were taught how to wade 
through labors leaving legacies 
Knowing how to Bob and Weave
Knitting together stories of unity 
A compass pointing in all directions of lifelines 
and Negro spirituals while peering through church windows
We are stained glass
with a colorful exterior 
of a painful past 
They called our neighbor “The Bottom”
8 miles from the Potomac River; where black people were free
Built our own homes and called it a community
Yet, many Black people that I know have a fear of the Ocean
But in their daily motions
They move through history like water flows
Absorbing, over, above, under, and around
a railroad and an underground
to freedom 
It’s not that we don’t know how to swim
We can propel our bodies through water
using the limbs
it’s that deep down we know our ancestors didn’t swim for pleasure in those days
it’s not that we are afraid
it’s that we’d rather move through our lives like the flow of water
and wade

Copyright © 2022 by KaNikki Jakarta. Used with the permission of the poet.