Beneath the Massive Oak Tree

Unaware that royal blood courses beneath her wrinkled and 

Blackened skin from long hours in brutal humidity, 

Her back permanently aching, day after day, 

Bent over, fingers raw; bag after bag weighed, 

Slave after slave whipped; now, exhausted, 

She lies in the dust beneath the oak weary and broken. 

She is an old, old woman of forty-one – 

The daughter of slaves who were the children of

Slaves who were the children of 

Princes and princesses.


He looked like just another field hand

Walking slowly down the lane – most

Likely hired out by a neighbor to make up 

For the sickness going around. His clothes

Tattered, old hat shading his face, he walked 

With a stooped dignity that broadcast the

Fact that they had never broken him.

Fat, tobacco-chewing overseer spat

Disdainfully and cursed as he read 

The newcomer’s paperwork, before walking to the Big House.


There was a commotion within, shouts, and cries – 

Master and his lawyer, Misses trailing behind beneath

Her parasol and bonnet. Confusion, upheaval, she was

Curious, but too fatigued to do more than lift her head

From the dusty shade of the massive oak.

The Oak knew the displaced and slaughtered

Indigenous people who were one with this land for 

Ten-thousands of years before it was stolen. He survived 

The slashing and burning, ploughing and planting by

Invaders who worked stolen land with stolen souls.


The old oak was the first to hear, the first to lift his

Arms in praise to the Almighty. Though the pale-skinned

People remained in shocked denial, the papers were

Clear, legal, and in order. The entire plantation,

Long since fallen into bankruptcy, now belonged

To the scruffy looking field hand. As a first order of

Business, even while the master’s carriages were

Clopping off in the distance to the wails of the entitled,

He called together all the slaves, and gave them

Papers of manumission.


Afterward, he walked toward her, a gentle smile on his face,

A kindness in his eyes such as she had never before seen.

He sat down next to her in the dust and spoke of the 

Beauty of the morning’s sunrise. She remained silent,

Still afraid. What did these changes mean for her?

Where would she go? Her husband had been beaten to 

Death, his body burned on a stake for trying to escape.

Her children sold down the river; gone. She was alone and

Too weary to care anymore. What did he want?

Does it matter?


He divided the plantation into 40-acre farms

And gave one section to each family, along with

Mules and ploughs, horses and chickens.

What had been a cotton plantation would soon

Become a farming village. The Big House became a

Home for elders no longer able to care for themselves;

The new owner lived as one with the former slaves.

Around campfires, they sang and danced; at

Christmastide, they feasted and gave gifts; at

Easter, they shouted their hallelujahs.


A great war ripped apart the land. Many a mansion

Burned to the ground. Slavery ended, only to be

Replaced by draconian laws, convict leasing,

Hooded riders and lynching trees. The field hand

Kept a watchful eye from the watchtower,

Ever keeping the evil at bay with a presence that

Radiated both power and peace. He had no guns,

No canon, yet there was a force that glowed

Outward from him, as if, with a word, he

Could thresh mountains.


Still she sat, wearied and broken, in the dust

Beneath the massive oak, happy for her neighbors,

But worn out like an old mule, barely able to lift

Her head. Day after day, he visited, bringing

Fresh bread, sweet wine, meat and cheese.

Day after day, he spoke of trees and birds and

Clouds and far off seas. He told her tales of 

Her ancestral homeland, of great herds of wildebeest, and

Flowing grasslands. How or when he had been there, 

She could not imagine. 


Several weeks past until, during one of their visits

Under the old oak, he took her hands, looked into

Her eyes and asked her to be his wife. She wept as

She fell into his arms and felt his strength lift her out

Of the dust and carry her back to her shack.

Seamstresses, musicians, tradesmen came by daily,

Jewelry was made, dresses embroidered, flowers arranged,

But it wasn’t until the wedding itself that it hit her – 

She was marrying a King. 

She was about to become a Queen.


And the Old Oak lifted his arms in praise to the Almighty.


About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on May 19, 2023, in kingdom of God, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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