Chicago on the Road to Freedom

a terza rima sonnet

By Thomas Davis

Cacophony, noise, horses, people, smells,
A raging restlessness and energy
Unbounded from the places spirit dwells,
Infected them and made them want to flee
Their fleeing even as Chicago seethed
And made them wonder if their slavery
Was more than whips and white men wreathed
In arrogance, but something in their souls,
Their consciousness, the very air they breathed
That filled their lives with loss and empty holes
Where dreams should live and let life soar in skies
Removed from fear and all the deadly shoals
That, hidden, suddenly materialize
And snatch away a slave’s most longed-for prize.

Note: This continues the sonnet sequence I am writing. The sonnets, all of them different kind of sonnets, head each chapter in a novel that is giving me endless trouble. In the novel a large group of slaves from different plantations, led by a fiery Preacher, escape southern Missouri and head north toward Washington Island in Wisconsin. At this point in their escape they have reached Chicago.

7 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

7 responses to “Chicago on the Road to Freedom

  1. Wow!, Thomas! A one-sentence sonnet! The breathlessness of it certainly conveys that sense of needing to escape, ever moving on, wanting “to flee their fleeing,” even, for that “more,” that “something in their souls”….

    • I was worried about not putting in a volta, Cynthia. Your comment encourages me. I trust your sense of craftsmanship as well as your understanding of art. I hope you’re doing well.

  2. Wonderful Thomas
    “Where dreams should live and let life soar in skies
    Removed from fear and all the deadly shoals”
    Loved these lines

  3. extrasimile

    White men sheathed in arrogance.
    Phew!
    Does that ever sum up the antebellum south.( and perhaps a good deal of the post-bellum I suspect as well. To change the subject, briefly, have you ever read ‘The Hemmingses of Monticello’ by Annette Gordon Reed? She’s something of the Proust of southern slavery. You will never see slavery in the same way. It’s not that she paints a harsh picture, she does that, but she gives you the full complexity of the situation. White men were more than sheathed in arrogance. Do you know they actually changed the primogeniture laws so that the children born of a white man and a black woman could not inherit master’s property? Their own sons and daughters
    (I do recognize recommending you a book as if you hadn’t read it is a trifle arrogant itself…but I do so any way. It’s a remarkable book.)
    Okay. I said, phew! I refresh my reading and see the full sentence—ah, clause—is
    Their fleeing even as Chicago seethed
    And made them wonder if their slavery
    Was more than whips and white men wreathed
    In arrogance, but something in their souls,
    My only quarrel with that is that they must have noticed this before they got to Chicago. Slavery enslaved everybody in the south—it’s just the white man got to sit up on the veranda and drink mint julips.
    All that said, another remarkable sonnet, Thomas. That first line, phew. I’m guessing that your heart is in the sonnets not the novel—but maybe I’m wrong.
    Jim

  4. And the juice continues to flow. I am sure all the struggle will we seen of worth it when the novel, complete with the sonnets, is finished. Please do continue writing. And sharing these milestones.

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