It’s All About Interpretation


 by Sheila R. Pierson

It’s all about interpretation – I wrote a song with this phrase in it one time. How one interprets what they read or see can make all the difference in their reaction, if they have one at all. When I was a young child immersed in a very strict religion, I was raised to believe that if you had sexual relations with another person you had to marry them…or burn (in hell) based on the scripture 1 Corinthians 7:8,9 King James Version. This led a lot of young, God-fearing folk down the aisle of a broken marriage before they could blink. It turns out this particular scripture can also mean it is better to marry than to “burn with passion,” giving a whole new meaning to the scripture. I bring this up to merely make the point that interpretation can make all the difference.

I wrote the poem “Truth” a few years ago while living in Memphis, TN. It was Black History Month and I looked out across a field and saw it covered in tiny stalks of a white flower I didn’t recognize, but on a grand scale it made me think of a field of cotton – something I am all too familiar with in the areas I have lived all my life. I posted the aforementioned poem a month ago on my blog, but wondered if anyone interpreted the meaning I aimed to imbue it with. Here we are in Black History Month 2012 and I would like to revisit it, if you will indulge me and allow me to give the meaning behind the madness in my mind.


Flying spiders, upright toads

Whimsical fairies, the mind implodes

Shadows flee or perhaps they chase

The sun that shines over such disgrace.

An open wound that drains disease –

Don’t Read My Mind If You Please!

Cotton stalks, the smell is rich

Of crosses hot and black flesh

Which will burn or hang if chosen by

White sheets tonight living high

The wind will carry through the leaves

Stories of old and dreams of these –

Hasten to capture the Truth of just one

Be wary of those who say there is none.

The first two lines: the inconceivable, something disgustingly impossible, an implied segue to the upcoming lines in the poem.

The next two reference such things as disgraceful and hard to look upon. I call these ‘an open wound that drains disease,’ attempting to acknowledge that I know such horrors may actually be possible but the next line “don’t read my mind if you please’ is asking the reader to not assume too much about me, the author; don’t assume I condone such horrors when I resolutely do not.

The next few lines are more easily interpreted: “Cotton stalks, the smell is rich of crosses hot and black flesh which will burn or hang if chosen by white sheets tonight living high.” This is an out and out admission of the severe injustices that have happened in the South by those who hide under the cover of darkness and white robes. 

Following this is an intention to challenge the reader to believe and acknowledge the truth of this; that when you hear the stories of the very people who were forced to use separate water fountains and weren’t allowed to sit where they wanted, go where they wanted and yes suffered physical and bodily harm to afford themselves the same rights as everyone else, don’t doubt them! For God’s sake, listen to them and learn from them. Take your new wisdom and spread it to others. And yes, the phrase “dreams of these” is in reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lastly, when someone (and there’s always someone) doubts the truth of these things, remember the last line of my poem and “be wary of those who say there is none.”

image provided by Microsoft Clip Art

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