January 28, 2023

It’s Okay to Stop and Stare

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

The chunk of metal that came flying off the flatbed in front of me failed to knock me off the road. The next morning I noticed the missile made a ragged crack on the windshield. When I turned on the defroster to clear off some Boon (winter to the Light Skinned like me), the crack spread across the windshield like the Great Mystery was drawing on it. The glass experts advise that cracks more than twelve inches might cause the car roof to collapse from structural weakness should the car happen to flip. This crack was about three feet. I wasn’t worried about flipping until the stop sign on the country road forced me to hit the brakes and spin six times. The road was two lanes, with little traffic, except the train in front of me, explaining the stop sign and the necessity of stopping at train tracks. There were deep ditches on both sides of the road but I was spinning slow enough to remember to keep the noggin down if the car flipped into the ditch. Then hold my breath while submerged in the water, cold water that causes hypothermia and death. Finally all set, wait upside down for the Great Mystery (the Creator) or sheriff deputies, depending who’s the first responder, to rescue me from my imagination.

The Saginaw Chippewa tribe were believers in the power of storytelling that’s passed on through blood memory, connecting all of us to Creation. The prophets told the Chippewa tribe to following the Setting Sun, their Great Walk taking them from Niagara Falls to the Detroit River and through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Canada. The Chippewas used winter time, which they called Boon, to share their stories.

I have a new resolution to stare and the Chippewa museum in Mount Pleasant was one of my stop and stares.The storytelling was romantic at the start. There was a distinct loss of romance and brusque harshness by the end of the brief tour. The museum is next door to the casino and the local college football team is nicknamed the Chippewas. The Great Walk had become the Great Fall, leaving a trail of blood and tears and slot machines. Near the end, there’s a poem in a glass case. A Chippewa from Michigan who had fought in World War Two is given credit for writing it during the war. His name was William Graveratte and he became a prisoner of war in the Battle of the Bulge. The poem is called “Our Hitch in Hell.” Another resolution of mine is to check sources. “Our Hitch in Hell” seems to have many people claiming authorship. The original was supposedly written by a soldier in World War One and spread in many versions. Now “Hitch in Hell” is hanging on the museum wall in Mount Pleasant, alongside the biography of a Chippewa POW, the poem written on paper in his scrawl. Here it is the chain letter from Hell, written in the blood of man following the Setting Sun, pass it on.

Abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s Great Walk to the Setting Sun was listed as “around 105” years on her grave in Battle Creek. The more official account is 86 years with a question mark. Sojourner Truth said, “Give ’em land and an outset, and hab teachers learn ’em to read. Den they can be somebody.” She asked God, her Great Mystery, what’s wrong with the Constitution, and “He says to me, ‘Sojourner, dere is a little weasel in it.'”

The windshield held in one piece across the state to Battle Creek where I had a stop and stare at her twelve foot monument. We’re always told that we shouldn’t stare, making it more difficult to find the weasel in the truth. There’s a second hand store near the Sojourner Truth monument. A cheap six foot replica of the statue of liberty was in front of the store. A weasel looking nervous guy in a jean jacket and hood and smoking a cigarette was leaning against the door, nodding with his cigarette dangling from his lips to the statue of liberty that it was a good deal. Miss Liberty was in a bull market. The other guy was standing close enough to give Miss Liberty a kiss on the mouth. His head was cocked and he stared into her mouth like he saw a cavity. The Truth was feeling neglected in the snow. Headquarters for the Kellogg Company was nearby and a burst of expensive cars went past the second hand store. It was getting late and corporate executives were going home. These two guys bartered probably fifty, forty, thirty, twenty dollars over the statue of liberty, six feet of dirty gray Dumpster art. I had come to get a look at Sojourner Truth and instead I was staring at these two guys trying to pawn liberty. I was feeling the same vibes here that I got at the museum, a curtain call for Our Hitch in Hell. I stared at the crack in the windshield the whole way home, thinking maybe I should put off a stop and stare in Detroit.


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