Women singing in a Pentecostal church in Chicago, 1941 (photograph by Russell Lee/Library of Congress)
Women singing in a Pentecostal church in Chicago, 1941 (photograph by Russell Lee/Library of Congress)

Sacred Bones

“Hold tight to history,” Appalachian poet E.J. Wade writes, so we might be awakened.

Radical Dreams

I used to dream radical dreams
where Jim Crow
washed in a communal tub
and dried with kisses from the Tennessee breeze
slept on a lumpy bed
covered in quilts
stitched by the sacred hands of my grandmother
dreamt of the possibility of freedom

I used to dream radical dreams
when God made mountains, he made women and men
strongGod madresilientains, he maderesolute

where between ground and trees and sky
wedged between dream and wake
Jim Crow
like the sound of quiet
would be Still
would be Rest
and be Redeemed

I used to dream radical dreams


Borne from the magnolia tree, tall and shallow of roots
longing to taste the lusciousness of spring, so I might
remember my name
remembI am awakened

antique beds, aluminum tubs and
wooden washboards aged and seasoned over timeby hard labor and circumstance
by hardimmortalize my birthright

Clabber Girl baking powder, Argo Starch,
and hand churned butter cultured and sweet
a legacy passed hand to hand along the chromosome line
matriarchal strong ndtt linked by bloodchrombonemosspirit
matriarcencapsulates my essence

ancestral hands brown and red,
tanning beneath an unrelenting southern sun
embrace majestic tartan and tasseled sporran
interlocking family, clan, and kinship; from Scottish Yew,
twisted and split, its roots anchored in perpetuity and
fettered in sacred soil
fetteredembodies my DNA

elders, immigrants, indentured and free,
stolen and bound, migrate north like
geese by train, bus, and V8 Ford
speak the truth, and shame the devil
remembering ALWAYS where we come from
rememhold tight to our history

passed down from tongue to tongue,
hand claps, and the tapping of feet
sacred memories are stuffed carefully in the corner
of the hand me down suitcase
between the lucky sweater
and the handmade jewelry box
adorned with macaroni shells
adornedrecounting our memories

matriarchal strong
matriarclinked by bloodmemorbonemorand spirit

Author Profile

E.J. Wade is an educator and two-time Pushcart Award Nominee. Wade’s poems are published in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Women Speak Volume Eight, and New Ohio Review. She is pursuing a doctorate in Disability and Equity in Education focusing on the silencing, exclusion, and invisibility of African-American women with disabilities. Wade holds a Master’s of Appalachian Studies from Shepherd University and The University of The West of Scotland.

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