Ode to Joy

Over two-hundred years ago black feet
In shackles shuffled to shores they were unsure of. 
The jingle of chains a precursor to the jingle of change in coin purses 
Used to purchase us. 
But still we sang into blue skies and turned a shuffle into a two-step.
Turned that two-step into a salsa
We are a people of transmutation 
We come from a history of radical joy.

When whips cracked overhead 
While blistered hands reached into cotton bulbs
Staining them with the first red dye of blood
We sang 
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
The overseers didn’t know how we were gonna overcome 
But we were already a choir for freedom
They asked us to sing those songs, 
But they didn’t know we were singing revolution.

When was the last time you smiled?

I spoke to Joy today. 
She rode in with her top down.
She smelled like a good night.
She looked like she been eating well.
And I had to say a good God damn! 
Bitch where have you been?

She said: 
I’ve been planting seeds in the turned soil of my soul
I’ve been weeding the garden of my spirit 
I’ve been tending to the honeypot and coming in the morning.
I’ve been living in today with my foot in tomorrow
I’ve been inhaling deeply while remembering those who can’t breathe. 
I’ve been dancing in the streets while the bullet casings turn to rust around my feet.
I’ve decided to live despite the fact they believe it impossible.
Do what you need to do with this.
Then she drove off in her drop top like a lit ass bitch
And all there was left to do was write this ode to Joy

Kayla Rodney

Dr. Kayla Rodney, a New Orleans native, has been studying and writing poetry for the last fifteen years. She’s a graduate of Lusher Charter High School, Xavier University of Louisiana, San Diego State University, and University of Florida. After being displaced due to Katrina, and then later migrating to different cities for her education, she felt a pull to write about home and the tremendous power of community, landscape, family, and water. She is the author of SWIMMING HOME (Unlikely Books, 2019) and is currently a lecturer at Clayton State University in Atlanta, Georgia.