Chapter 16
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“Message from Egururu”

Book Excerpt: Migration

Message from Egururu

We don’t see a shadow unless it’s already been cast.

We saw our elders passing through the Valley of the Shadows,

the Shadow of death. We smelled the decaying flesh, saw

the bloated bodies. We recognized them nonetheless,

our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, our babies unborn.

The ocean Atlantic was transformed.

It is the River Styx, running crimson, running

Blood Red. We see our reflections in the water.

We want to turn away.

We cannot. We have to look.

We have to


Charon is disguised as Slave trader,

captaining the Middle Passage. He has stocked his ship

with desperate souls. We are praying for ascension, to fly,

but if not to fly, to die and be lifted

up and away. We pray

for death descending. We fling

the only thing left. Do we not own our lives? We fling it overboard,

into the warm water grave. The waves wait patiently

for us. The rest of us remain down below,

buried in the bowels of the ship’s living hell.


While George Washington was forging a new nation,

our elder parents were birthing our family.

Her name was Egururu.

Our blood runs though Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire,

and here, in America.

Through tobacco and cotton fields, through thick and thin treed forests

our elder father, our elder mother, they found

each other, their bodies, their spirits came together,

warming the North Carolina soil.

It was here Egururu was born

and given the only gift she could keep—her name.

Not caring about the gift, her master gave her his chosen one

and she was reborn


without even a surname until she married and

became a Gatling only because her husband

was owned by one.


My name is Egururu,

no matter what they call me. When you say my name, you tell my story.

So she told all of her children about the shadows.

And we repeated it to our children, and so on,

and so on. And now,

come closer…

for we are telling it to you.

“Message from Egururu”

Copyright (c) 2019 by Cynthia Robinson Young. All rights reserved. Cynthia Robinson Young’s work has appeared in Sojourners, Poetry South, The Ekphrastic Review, and Catalpa: a magazine of Southern perspectives, among other journals and anthologies. She is a graduate student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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