Shelby’s latest report from Paul’s Hill isn’t always pretty, but it sure does sing. Once again, the spirit of July the Slave Girl is alive and defiant, a haunting that Shelby makes our own. The cast of characters keeps growing, and they intersect with some darknesses left unspoken among polite (white) folks for too long. Shelby works his magic in some intriguing, impressive and sometimes surprising formal structures, and he adds new images, insights, and details to his own biography. Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill compresses time and stitches memory to the soil and its history as it covers Shelby’s “little postage stamp of native soil” with a veil of compassion (My heart still aches for Runaways who hid out in Roach Branch), pain, humor, and hope.
Sometimes I sing along the edges to see how things stack up in
taking stock in taking stock, seeing the farmers in their field, the slaves, the mules, plus
the poor who are Have-nots in a past shaping now and
of a fabric here on Paul’s Hill and across the road in the Nimrod Stephenson Memorial Cemetery. . .