Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“On the Sidewalk of Troy, TN, 1904”

Book Excerpt: Vantablack

On the Sidewalk of Troy, TN, 1904

Black man walk on the sidewalk, dread on the sidewalk, good speed, god speed, God save
him as he walks.

White girl on the sidewalk. Cross to the other side, man. Drop into the ditch, man. Don’t look
into her eyes,

man on the sidewalk.

Ditch the pavement. Don’t pave a way that’s not for you. I mean the ditch, the ditch is for you.
Walk down

and low, eyes bowed. Walk low and down step around, I pray. Step around or else

your body lined in chalk.

I said step aside or get chalked. Or hanged. Neck cracked in permanent supplication by the
sidewalk. Sway, sway.                        Or                       stay,

black man, on the sidewalk.

Split the altar of her ego on the pavement where you walk. I mean, pave a way that frees her
from this lie,

the old snake still whispers, still slides, still makes her eat that peculiar fruit. You must

walk on the sidewalk.

Let me hear the click and clack of your heels on the sidewalk. Drive your stake through
humanity and claim it as you walk.

Head erect, sun in eyes, forward and never to the

side. walk.

“On the Sidewalk of Troy, TN, 1904”

Excerpted from Vantablack by Ciona Rouse (Third Man Books). Copyright © 2017. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Ciona Rouse is a poet, editor, and educator based in Nashville. Her poetry also appears in Oxford American, Poem-a-DayNPR MusicThe SlowdownBooth, and other publications.