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 prophecy she made over the boy she refers to is him.  The prophecy 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…  It was quiet then.  No trains approaching or leaving.  The church silent.  Almost like you could hear the sound of crickets.  And he was the last to come up.  The last of his brothers.  For his whole family was there.  That is except his father.  The mother bringing him and his older brothers—six of them.  She brought them up—one at a time—to ask my blessing.  To ask for their anointing.  For me to prophesy over them…  And they were all sturdy men.  Good in stature—bigger than their mother, who seemed small in comparison to them, as she stood by them bringing them up.  I knew they took after their father.  And she said something about the eldest.  The eldest brother—not there.  Some sort of accident happening to him that she wanted me to divine.  But I had nothing to say about him—nothing came to me.  Until he came up.  The last.  The youngest.  That was when I hesitated.  For I saw in his countenance what I needed to say, but I was afraid to say it.  I saw the aching beauty in his eyes.  The pain.  And I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to comfort him with the right words…

 “The Devil is a liar!”

And he said nothing.  Only his eyes changing.  Some alertness lost.  Lost in a reflection.  And I knew he was thinking about his brother.

“You are loved…  Don’t ever doubt that.  You can be loved.  And you will be loved.  You will have a life-long friend…”  And the rest I said to him like a song.  A psalm…  Not saying it from quoted memory.  For the words meant something different saying it to him.  And I knew it just as he did, which is why I said them…

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you…  All the days of your life…  And you shall dwell in the house of the Lord…  forever…

9

That was 1934.  And four years passed.  Girls were dated.  Girls that led to Rosie, and David’s time inMississippi.  The reference he made to it.  The reference he made to it in his journals—the prophecy made over him—vague, dissimulating.  And in 1938 he joined the Army.  An army still segregated.  And maybe that’s why it’s vague.  His reference to it.  Maybe he was still trying to find his way.  His way out of finding himself coming back.  It comes after the performance—his first paid performance at that Soulard Mardi Gras celebration.  Marking his entry as a professional.  His beginning as a professional musician:

             I never did it for the money.  There was another question I had.  Another question I asked in my music.  And maybe she heard it.  Maybe that’s why I still remember what she said.  In the silence of that church…

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