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Poem: "The Black and the Red" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Black and the Red"
This poem is spillover from the May 2, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "red" square in my 4-1-17 card for the Month of Rainbows Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] daisiesrockalot. It belongs to the series Fledgling Grace.


"The Black and the Red"


It was never about race,
but about building bulwarks
for survival on common ground.

The Seminole tribe evolved
from refugees seeking places
where the white invaders
would not follow, mostly
Muskogee Creeks.

Alongside them came
runaway slaves and maroons,
and free negroes who found
white society unlivable.

Some of the negroes
lived with the Seminoles
and blended into the tribe,
while others made villages
and alliances nearby.

They lived in the worst parts
of the land that they could find,
deep swamps and dense thickets
and air all a-swarm with mosquitoes,
the black and the red hiding together.

The Muskogee had come from
elsewhere in the south, nearly as
wet and warm as Florida; while
the negroes (or their ancestors) had
come from the jungles of Africa --
unlike the whites, adapted to
much colder and drier Europe.

They lasted for a long time
before finally being driven out
by the relentless tide of invaders.

Time passed, history whispered,
and much that was not written down
was forgotten or disbelieved.

Still it remained in family traditions.

Then the Fledging happened,
and for some, their history was
written in fresh new quills.

There were Seminoles
in Oklahoma who sprouted
the feathers of Senegal parrots,
green wings opening to reveal
startling yellow undersides.

There were African-Americans
who fledged into flamingos, at first
with drab feathers of warm gray,
but those who favored seafood
soon turned brilliant pink.

The historians clucked and tutted,
the elders shook their heads, but
there was nothing to be done about it.

People fluffed their outrageous plumage
and went on with their lives.

* * *

Notes:

Seminoles belong to a recognized tribe. Their background includes surviving harsh environments. The Black Seminoles came out of interactions between Native Americans and African-Americans.

Senegal parrots have green wings with yellow undersides.

American flamingos are native to Florida. In the wild, their vivid pink color comes from eating certain invertebrates and algae.

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