Quraysh Ali Lansana - “Purgatory”

after Jacob Lawrence

I think slavery is the next thing to hell. 
Harriet Tubman

on this path of becoming
shrouded by hoot owl

white snake and nosy deer
callous feel muster creek

rock between toes that know
blisters cuts fourteen

and three babies people blue
black night brown limbs aching

amidst rusty leaves moses hushes
them up the mountain half her body

lost in river the other stars
her hands a basket her face grit

a young man guiding wife and child
through purple water looks over

his shoulder at the broken ones
in back ghosts rattling their bones

“Purgatory” appeared in They Shall Run:  Harriet Tubman Poems (Chicago:  Third World Press, 2004).  Copyright © 2004 by Quraysh Ali Lansana.