She lies, brown skin down in the moist dirt,
the canebrake rustling with whispers of leaves,
the loud longing of hounds and the ransack
of hunters crackling the near branches.
She mutters, lifting her head,
I shall not be moved.
She gathers her babies, their tears slick as oil
on black faces, their young eyes canvassing
the mornings of madness. Their lives will soon
be upon the killing floor unless they match
their mother’s heart and words.
Not in Virginia tobacco fields, along the roads
in Arkansas or upon the reddened hills of Georgia.
Into the palms of her chained hands, she cries
against calamity, her universe collapsing
by one black body falling from the tree
to her feet. She hears the names swirling
as ribbons in the wind of history: nigger, bitch,
baboon, whore… but those descriptions do not
fit their tongues. She has a way of being:
I shall not be moved.
No angel stretches wings above her children,
none to protect, none flutter and urge the winds
of reason. Nor can she. They sprout like young
weeds, vulnerable to uncaring cutting blades
of ignorance. She pulls them out
and sends them away—shoeless—underground.
When you learn, teach. When you get, give.
She stands mid ocean, seeking dry land.
She’s clothed in the finery of faith. Searches
for God’s face. On the altar, places her fire
of service. When she appears at the temple door,
there’s no sign to welcome her. She only hears
the thrashing sound of wickedness, she cries,
“No one dare deny me God!”
But then she sees upon her right, The Divine,
who impels her to pull forever at the latch
on freedom’s gate. His Holy Spirit on her left
leads her into the camp of the righteous,
into the tents of the free. She sees
the momma-faces—lemon-yellow, plum-purple,
honey-brown—grimaced and twisted down.
Their names are Sheba the Sojourner, Harriet
and Zora, Mary Bethune and Angela, and all
the Annies to Zenobias.
In front of abortion clinics, confounded.
In Welfare lines for the pity of handouts.
In pulpits, yet shielded by mysteries.
In the operating rooms, husbanding life.
In the choir lofts, holding God in their throats.
On street corners, hawking worn-out bodies.
In classrooms, loving children, hating ignorance.
Centered on world’s stage, they each sing
to their loves and beloveds, and to their foes,
these words: “However I’m perceived,
however great my deficiency or conceit,
lay aside your fears that I may become undone,
I shall not be moved.”
Angela Brown is a published author of poetry, essays, screenplays, short scripts, musical plays, dance plays, short stories, children’s literature, biography, Pulitzer articles, songs, lyrics and music. Her work appears in books, anthologies, magazines, newspapers and journals. She’s a poetry ambassador, poet fellow and is in the Who’s Who in American literature, Who’s Who in American poetry, Hall of Fame in Poetry, and a National Pen Association Professional member. Her work has appeared on the nominating list for NAACP Image Awards in Poetry and for the NAACP Spingharn award. She’s a National Press Club member, a National Democratic Committee member, a NAACP Lifetime member and a Sigma Lambda sorority member. She is also on the National Deans List and a member of the National Scholars Honor Society, as well as a USA honor student member.