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“Freedom Shadows” for Ahmaud Arbery

By Celucien Joseph

PROMPT — I will not rest until ...

If freedom could speak, how will it instruct you and me? What will it say to you in the morning? What will it teach the world? when the clock is broken; when the wound is not healed; when the pain is not new and stands still; a nightly song to us will it sing? Where will it meet us? at the center, in the prison cell, under the rainbow, or in the valley. The parrots sing to me: “Freedom shadows, freedom shadows, freedom shadows have no location and identity.”

If freedom were a lamp, where will it guide our path?

to the stars;

to a community of peace;

or a country where it does not rain;

to a place of despair;

or a village where the people live in reconciliation blues.

Please tell me if freedom were a shadow, whose image will it reflect?

your resemblance;

my likeness;

or our common humanity.

If freedom were a color, what will be its preference?

Will it be brown, black, white, ultraviolet, or no color?

The children in the streets whisper: “Monsieur, freedom is all the colors in one…at full brightness.”

Yet this country’s freedom betrays me and keeps us in shackles.

Freedom here is cold and has no soul.

this freedom does not make a loud noise,

nor does it explode.

It hides itself in the clouds of emptiness,

in the sea of solitude,

in the valley of ashes.

It alienates us and does not restore brokenness.

Freedom in this village is

is a lie, not mine.

It is just a dream, always a dream to me.

It is the dream our people dreamed about.

In the land of my birth, freedom passes us like a shadow,

in a home with one window,

this freedom is shallow and suicidal.

It tempts us like the devil.

Freedom in this land is like

a sacred space between us and them;

a period that creates a distance,

a sign that indicates a hindrance,

a clause that breaks the bond.

This freedom is here to stay.

This nation’s freedom does not visit us in the morning;

It crosses over our path at dawn.

Why is freedom so far away?

The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully.

The dolphin can dance beautifully.

Even the little birds are set free.

For you and me, our dance is not free.

When our blues are new, our spirituals change the view.

This freedom is not our preview; it is their honeydew.

Dreaming in a land where freedom will be for you and me;

Dreaming in a land where freedom could be a warranty deed; we could use it as a seal.

only if freedom times can stop moving, I could start living.

Dreaming in a land where freedom could be free for us and bond all of us; joy will be in all of us.

the melody of freedom will find us;

freedom dance will rebuild our people;

peace will sustain this nation;

love will remake us;

These freedom shadows are only our shadows.


Celucien L. Joseph (PhD) teaches English at Indian River State College. He writes from Fort Pierce, Florida.


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