Contumely's Gavotte

Updated: Jun 26, 2020



I do not have Shakespearean insight into my ancestral woes

But I do now rise wiser than before decades of inhibition.

I see that I danced through the crucial junctures blindly following others' faithless leads.

It was an honor and a privilege to serve that well-worn tradition,

Or so my belief was conditioned by Pavlovian fables told me in my youth.

Alas, It has been my destiny to be Queen of no kingdom

Save that which snarls at my abstinence from the Gavotte of my race.

It first drew me in with flattering false steps I mistook for devotion

Boosting my self-regard beyond the confines of its bitter battlements

Until my dour cap of dutifulness did finally unravel

Into a hood of dark fabric flailing amid disrespect’s deforming tempest

Which marred my perspective and made reality an invisible stranger.

It is this hooded, silenced horror

That draws me to the apoplexy of my fellow dancers

Who share my second sex’s somnolence and spurned potential.

Our female furlough indeed predates the yoke

They have known here

In our nation’s original sin's history of enslavement.

Like the wiser sex,

They did not seek to inhabit the unlit margins

Where colorful dancers must hide from discriminatory scorn,

Still suffering through stoic poses without benefit of communal inclusion.

They too long remained silent in their pain

To keep the faith for some better afterword to Their repressive present,

Or perhaps to simply bide Their time until the next great reckoning.


Today the dancers wear masks

To shield those who never shielded them from a color-based contagion.

Now Their dancing is a proud and purposeful display

Of every former suppressed joy and terror

That even splendid colors could not allay.

Relegated to a race-baited legacy of robotic placidity,

These dancers, so diverse with rich exuberance

Had to hood Their beauty in urban reservations,

And fence Their power behind a tattered sackcloth screen

Which concealed Their disrobed personhood.

But since May,

The Gavotte is forced to recalibrate its unyielding tempo

To allow freeform dances whose final choreography remains undefined.

The same sanctioners who would label

You as lawless and despised in Lafayette Square

Have reared up to revere the newly toppled Confederate relics

Inherited from olden slavemaster tongues who taught us whom to hate.

It requires too much daring to leave so exclusive a fortress

Where purely unjust justice is enshrined,

That entitles monstrous disregard shown by Jim Crow’s progeny

For the dancers' right-minded agonies.

None could predict the impossibility that today seems nearly possible.

Perhaps heavy-handed overseers, whose whips have turned to tasers,

Could one day become the overseen.


Sadly, for hate's redcoat posse,

Contumely ignores the dishonored Mason-Dixon Line.

To slyly cross it as an invisible, marauding pestilence.

Dancers do not pause Your defiant dancings beside the plague

To give audience to Your transgressors’ stricken parries.

For You did not cause their self-inflicted perdition,

And only Your lead can guide future dancers into juster rhythms,

Full of color.


City Hall in Savannah, Georgia


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