And so we must go back.  We must go back in time to tell the story.  A different part of the story, a different facet of it—pieces of a puzzle that bring us closer to the truth.  The truth of what happened after maybe explaining why David joined the Army.  Because everything is not there all at once.  Sometimes you must go forward to find out what happened before, and vice versa.  And so we must flash back—to 1934—when David was sixteen years old.  To a prophecy.  A prophecy made over him by a woman.  A visiting singer/evangelist to the church David’s mother took her children.  A Sunday evening service with only a few in attendance.

            And I had to dig to find this.  In his journals, David Threnody only makes reference to it once, mentioning a woman by the name Clarissa Smalls.  With a little library research I found her book, a memoir she wrote after the war, in 1948.  Recounting her work on the advancement of civil rights.  Her work in the procurement of freedoms for African-Americans.  Particularly African-American women.  And it’s the following passages in it that gives us the story, another part of the story.  Below comes from the preface:

 

Nobody told me how.  But I could do it just as good.  I could do it just as good as any man.  Because you see I always had this resolve, this iron will—an energy people sensed.  What I guess attracted my body, my mind, to the opposite sex.  For I felt their eyes on me.  Men’s eyes.  And the truth is I was repulsed by it.  I didn’t enjoy it.  And at first I had no idea what this attraction was.  For I did nothing to support it.  I didn’t primp in front of mirrors like other girls, and my abrasiveness usually made other girls steer away from me.  Funny how that same abrasiveness attracted men.  Even white men.  Maybe because they saw in me what they wanted for themselves.  My confidence.  My honesty.  From a young age I never faltered.  I was never wishy-washy in my decisions, my intentions.  And I never second-guessed my judgments.  I never felt guilt…  Some would say I was harsh in my judgments, but I don’t think so.  With only my father raising me (my mother died in my childbirth) I learned to call things as I see it.  Without hesitation.  This maybe learned from my father.  How when I walked with him he would point to things, asking me what they were, and so I learned at a young age to identify objects, quickly, without hesitation.  With intuition.  An out of work light post, an erratic crack in the sidewalk, scattered paper with words scratched out by a trashcan, a sign painted over with graffiti…  and I used this way of identifying objects on my walks with my father with people too, reading their eyes, their auras—a hurried businessman, a dissatisfied whore, a drunken bum sleeping oddly in a doorway…  And my father didn’t tell me how.  I just knew.  I knew how to intuit these things.  I could just look at someone and know what they were.  Never once doubting my impression, my judgments.  And this what gave me resolve, my will—what I suppose attracted men…  Then there was the sickness—what I learned from it.  When I was twenty-three I almost died.  Edema and water in my lungs.  From walking pneumonia.  Maybe brought about from smoking because I was a heavy smoker then—I started at the age of thirteen, the same year I started my first job—working in a laundry, in the hot steam of iron presses, in the fumes of oxidizing bleach…  And there was a boy then.  An apprentice carpenter that worked for my father.  A boy pushed on me by my father, who wanted to see me get married and taken care of—a boy who loved me, I suppose, and I thought I loved him, or at least he was tolerable enough as I tried to acquiesce my father.  At least I was curious about it.  This when I learned of sex.  The distaste I came to have for it.  The smell of it.  And what I sensed.  For I didn’t like just lying there.   That boy on top of me—ardent.  It’s when I knew.  I knew I could do it just as good as any man could.  Maybe even better.  For in my sickness, that bed-ridden illness that almost killed me, and in making love to that boy, I saw that I was stronger.  The sickness didn’t scare me.  Being alone through it didn’t scare me.  In fact it’s what gave me my voice—my singing voice.  Adding a grating, husky tone to how I sounded.  Making what I had to sing more soulful.  And I gained strength in my resolve to be alone—I needed no one taking care of me.  And I didn’t have the nagging doubts that boy had about what he could give, what he could offer.  And that’s when I decided men really didn’t have anything to give.  They had nothing to offer me that I wanted.  Except their buffoonery.  This how I knew.  How I knew a woman could take on anything a man could give, but not the other way around.  How I knew I was called.  Called to the ministry.  To sing and prophesy to my people.  To enable the women of my color.  A better preacher of sex and the ills of earthly love than any man could be, weakened by his natural temptations.  For I had none of these.  I had none of these temptations.  I was done with that.  The joy in my heart—my resolve—that it was better to be single, independent.  Giving my service to God instead.  To beaten-down women of my race.  And so I became a prophetess.  I sang this good news to women’s souls, and read the fortunes in people’s eyes…

 

            And the following passage, the reference I found of it her memoir, is at about the right time—the mid to early thirties.  When Clarissa Smalls traveled the country.  A guest at revivals and small black churches throughout the Midwest and the South.  It sounds about right to be David.  That it’s David Threnody she’s talking about.  That the prophesy she made over the boy she refers to is him.  The prophesy about him, and what he needed to hear then:

 

It was a city church.  In East St. Louis.  Not normally what I was accustomed to visit.  My singing ministry normally devoted to rural revivals.  Out of the way country churches.  But I suppose why I remember this church (a diminutive building on the outskirts of a slaughterhouse, near the stockyards and rails) was how I had to sing over it.  I had to sing over the sound of trains.  Their whistles blowing as they came in, as they left.  And I remember thinking it was an odd time for trains to be switching up at the Relay Depot they had there, for it was a Sunday evening, and I thought that would be a quiet time for trains—but it wasn’t.  It was almost like they knew I was singing.  Like they wanted to be heard.  And my voice almost broke—it lost that grating huskiness that came to me after my illness—sounding almost shrill…  And that’s when that boy came up. Came up to the altar.  With those eyes.  Those eyes that reminded so much of the only boy that loved me, that boy who worked for my father.  A boy who wanted to marry me.  He had the same countenance.  That same beautiful countenance I remember of him, in those times when he was trying to give to me.  And it almost made me hesitate.  It almost made me falter in what I had to say to him…

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