Aunt Chloe
All Rights Reserved by Author; Copyright © 2011, 20012
Portrait of Old Ma
Suzanne Sunshower

Rarest portrait of all:  
          tintype of a Black woman      
forebearer    (original
– deepest shadow
          of country’s darkest hour.

Thumbing the smoky image
in awe
a visiting neighbor-lady says softly   
  Wasn’t it a sin
      what those slave masters did
to the women?

My child’s mind processes
the reverent whisper
             and knows    just knows
what is meant.

Old Ma’s portrait tells all

before film    almost
             before photograph –  
rugged great-great face    worn
eyes deep-creased / battered
crack of mouth    
             forming bitter line:   
Ain’t I A Woman?
in thick mississippi drawl / voice
like muddy river pounding rock...  

They used to say    
being “sold down the river”
to mississippi    
was the cruelest fate –

the sun blazing    always blazing.