“Run. RUN! RUNNN!!! Girl Run. Doh stop! RUN!”
Oh gad dis cassie bush cutting me too hard.
“DOH STOP! Run!!! You doh hear dem behind you? Run! Runnnn! Yes, run. Feel de tump-tump-tumping in you chest and RUN!”
AHHHH. Oh gad cassie rip me dress sleeve and is me blood answering.
“RUN! Run, chile, run! Keep running! Backra goin kill you eef he ketch you, so RUN! Doh worry bout blood saucing you steps. Pain gone tomarra. Today fu run, so RUNNN!”
Oh gad, oh gad he shootin now.
“Run chile! RUN!”
Wey Cuffy and Amina? Wey Papa Joe and Hercules? Dey was just by me.
“Runnn chile! Run me say, RUNNN!”
Oh gad Amina gone. Dey ketch she! Is she me ears hearing. Amina gone!! Oh gad she beggin.
“Chile, run! Run!”
Amina is me onlyiest family an she beggin. Is she me ears hearin. She beggin. Screamin.
“Run! RUNNN! Dey done ketch she. RUNN!”
She screaming, begging.
“Chile, listen me good and RUNNN!”
AHHHH GAD, dey comin! Bullet fly pass me face an fan hot breeze.
Dey coming. And Amina screamin! Wey Hercules gone? Wey Papa Joe? AMINAAAA!
“Chile, run! Run! RUNNN!”
Di ole people tell me “Run. Still run.” Di ole people always tell me wha fu do.
Di ole people shouting me now.
And another bullet fly pass me. And Amina screamin. Amina, AMINAAA… me onlyiest family in dis world… screamin, beggin… and I running. Blood saucing me steps and I running.
Blood bathing me arm. Hand still grippin di knife.
Blood. Blood. Blood is me life and blood bathing me arm, me dress…and Amina beggin. Me still have di knife and backra blood still drippin from dat too and di ole people still shoutin me.
Shouting me so loud me hardly hear Massa Wilks bullet buss out Papa Joe belly.
“RUN! Run chile! RUNNN!”
Me hear it doh.
Amina beggin and di dogs dem eatin she and she beggin and papa Joe…. Papaaaa! Is Papa Joe pain I hearin but it not goin stay so.
He dun say wha he would do eef dey ketch he and di ole people shouting me to
“RUN!! RUN cause di onlyiest way to be is to be for you alone and RUN! from backra whip and belly bawling murdaaa cause food nar come and pickney cyar ketch inna hungry belly. So RUN CHILE!”
Di ole people tell me “RUN!”. From since las harvest when Massa Wilks mek headman whip me till me pickney drop out me belly.
Since di ovaseeya, Massa Harris, bang me till me too weak fu fight back and tek wha he want cause me is nuttin to he but nigga woman and nigga woman nuh safe from nuttin in light or night.
And di ole people tell me “chile, you must run! You have to run!! RUN, and we will help you! RUN and we will show you where to go! Run chile! RUN and we will carry you back home! Run! RUNNN CHILE! RUN AND WE WILL CARRY YOU BACK HOME!!!
Since las harvest I hearing dem shouting me ear till me cyar hear nuttin nobody else does say to me.
All I hearing is “RUN chile!”. And Papa Joe scream a quick scream and he mout sound like a gurgle and me know is drink he drinking the blood coming up from he throat where he slice it off cause he did dun say wha he would do if dem ketch he and me know he do it cause Massa Wilks bullet ketch he.
And Massa Wilks dogs ketch Amina and she still screaming… and begging. So me run!
“Run, RUN chile!”
Me RUN, like di ole people shouting me fu do. Me run! And run. And me know is where freedom be. So me run. And slip in the blood saucing me steps but me still run. And blood bathing me whole arm and me onlyiest family getting eat out by Massa Wilks dogs and me run! And she screaming…. OH GAD me sissa SCREEEAMING!!!… and begging. And me run! She begging and Papa Joe gurgling and di ole people still shouting…
“RUN CHILE! YU SOON REACH, RUN!”
And me hear Papa Joe voice wid dem now. Me hearing him too shouting…
“RUN child! Me will meet you dere. Me coming too. RUN!”
And Amina begging. Me hear she begging. And me feel another bullet fly pass me. Me hear me Amina begging. And bush start to clear and me start fu see wey freedom be and di ole people jumping and shouting louder now…
“Yes! YESSS, RUN CHILE!”
Me soon reach and papa Joe mout shouting wid dem.
“YESSS, RUN CHILE! You soon reach!”
And me Amina, me onlyiest family in dis world begging. She begging. She begging me to “RUNNNNN!” And bush turn to rock and instead of cassie bush bursting skin is rock digging out me flesh and me see water.
“Run, run chile! Doh stop, RUN!”
Same water wha bring me to hell.
Same water dat eat me mammy and lickle brudda. Same water dat me daddy jump in off massa ship because he did hear ole people too.
“Chile, RUN! Run! RUNNN!”
Ole people never talk unless something dere to say.
Dats what papa Joe tell me when me tell he las harvest dat di ole people in me ear.
“RUNN! Run chile! RUNNN!”
Now papa Joe is ole people and he shouting too. And I soon reach and water see me. Me know she see me cause me cyar hear me Amina no more and come like Massa Wilks bullets run out cause dem nar fly no more and all that is dere is me and me ole people shouting me ear…
And water see me and water hear dem and water wake up. And me soon reach. Water wake up and she bex now cause backra ah kill she pickney and me running cause me know now wha me ole people mean when dey say dey will show me where to go. So me run and water bex and massa Wilks coming closer and shouting to massa Harris fu ketch me and me ole people laughing as dey shouting…
“YESSSS, RUN CHILE!”
And water bex bex now cause backra ah kill she pickney and me run so fast cut-up foot nuh mean nuttin cause me know free soon reach and me run pass all the rocks and dem and run and Run and RUNNNN off di last one hearing me ole people saying…
“Yessss, chile run! You soon reach!”
And water she see me and know wha di ole people send me for… and she grab me and hold me tight and tell me “doh worry, backra cyar get you now” and she take me down. Down. Down. And me sinking but on top she raging cause she bex. She bex cause backra ah killa she pickney. She fly up in he face and he almost fall over but massa Harris catch he just in time and water won’t stop raging cause she bex now and she wetting up everyting. All the rocks wet. Massa Wilks wet. Massa Harris wet. Bloody dogs with Amina in dey mout wet and water SCREEEEEEEAMING cause backra ah kill she pickney. And I sinking and sinking and sinking and me ole people singing
“Yessss, chile, is you we send for”
And water tell me “doh worry, backra cyar get you here” and me hearing papa Joe and me ole people and mammy and papa and Amina, singing. Me hearing all a dem singing now and water say “doh worry, backra cyar get you here” and me smile and say “yes, me know, cause me reach freedom.”
Feb 7, 2016
(Inspired by Elicia Robert’s photo of Devil’s Bridge, Antigua and the whisperings of my ole people)
Antigua oral tradition says that, during the brutal enslavement of African people, some of our ancestors on the eastern side of the island would escape and, rather than be re-captured, threw themselves off what it now called Devil’s Bridge into the Atlantic ocean. The tradition holds that, on entering the water, the ocean’s fury would awaken; she would rage against the jagged rocks, ensuring their death. Back then, it was said (presumably by the enslavers) that it was the devil that caused the ocean to react that way and so the place got the name “Devil’s Bridge”.
As is usually the case, the enslaved have a different view…