Vertical Shadows crawl over the world. Things are painted in a zebra Pinstripe. I Wonder what the world would Looklike If the view were not filtered through Ironbars.
Eyes, so full of emptiness, don’t even blink when the child is whipped. Child, branded by whip and scar, looks into the empty eyes and sees a reflection of a stranger vaguely familiar – it is himself.
He doesn’t understand why the eyes won’t do anything to help him. The eyes turn away and the child sees the smooth crisscrosses on his father’s back. Now he understands. His father too was once a child.
As he grows, the scars begin to close over the raw pain and a tough shell, a crust really, forms over that which was once called delicate. He has joined the family tradition – a slave to his master, just like his father.
Bound wrist to wrist, father and son lay brick after brick, building a pyramid to nowhere. Coarse clothe, like blistered palms, burn the sweaty skin off their shoulders – and smooth scar meets worn scab like foamy wave meeting spongy sand.
Child watches the sun set through the bars. Moon, working the graveyard shift, seems to be dressed in prisoners black and white pinstripes. At a closer look, it is the bars that are creating the pinstripe illusion.
(A slave seems to project his slavery unto others. And it is true: if there be but one slave in this world, then we, the free, are all slaves, shackled to that man’s lack of freedom.)
During those nights, looking at the stars, a million diamonds sown into crushed velvet, the Child’s mind wanders: Why am I a slave? Why is he a master? Why am I confined to self-subjugation, shackled to mortality, barred to boredom, chained to impossibilities, cuffed to ordinary? Why can I not just break out, reach for that crushed velvet – who knows, I may just grab a diamond?
In the purple haze of before sun’s budding and slave’s toiling, Child asks Father all of these questions. Child, before Father’s scar covers his eyes, sees a glimpse of something he cannot word, though we, the so called “free,” with our dictionaries and thesauruses, would recognize it as pain. Quicker than its arrival into Father’s eyes is its departure, and therefore Child thinks it a trick of dawn’s awakening. Father tells Child: We are slaves, and slaves have no right to ask questions. But why are we slaves? That’s just the way it is; don’t waste your energy on childish questions; save it for your bricklaying. Forget your questions.
But telling a child to forget is like telling an adult to rebel, and as the child grows, though scars grow as well, he always remembers his questions and sneak peaks out of the bars into the unknown.
Now older (it is difficult to tell a slaves exact age), he feels something inside of him, below scar tissue and under calloused skin. He doesn’t recognize it, though it is somewhat familiar – kind of like his childhood face.
That night, instead of collapsing on his stone bed, he looks through the bars – and those million lights in the dark unknown set off a million lights in his dark unknown. Questions, long buried under a thousand bricks, climb to the surface.
In that same purple haze of before sun’s budding and slave’s toiling, he gathers his friends – all young enough to revolt yet old enough to be taken seriously – and asks them his questions. They say we have asked the same questions and have gotten the same answers.
As the darkness of the crushed velvet illuminates the million stars (it’s funny how the brightest things are illuminated in the darkest places), the slaves join arms and questions in revolt. As there are inevitably more slaves than masters (for many reasons), and now nothing, not even their steel silence, coming between them, the slaves easily bust through the iron(y) bars and barb(ed) wire.
They are free at last. Free from scars. Free from masters. Free to ask questions – why should we not, I ask you?
(I have tried here to portray the going out of slavery, both personally and globally, in the light of a metaphor, one which I hope was more “freeing” than “enslaving.” May we, the young enough to revolt yet old enough to be taken seriously, never except that which is ruthlessly imposed upon us, and always question that which seems wrong.)
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