Saturday, February 23, 2008

So the Poets Say, So the Poets Tell Us

I have my own poems,
I have my heart, my moon, my breath and my secrets,
I have my love to babies,
And my faith that more will rise as my children rose,

But it is the poems of others,
The words that tear and soothe,
The words that rip and drip and feed and drink
That lift me up and grow me strong and race my heart

Further than I would have dared or dreamed to go.
It was Walt Whitman who waked me.
“Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you,” he wrote,
“That you be my poem.” And I believed I could be.

Poet Essex Hemphill, smart and black and gay,
He touched me, too, and called
Sure black men to build walls of protection around
The beleagured in Anacostia and Harlem and the wavering poor.

Martin King reminded us that the great men of war
Spoke about peace as though they could deliver such a thing
By bombing us and killing us. Those who feel that war brings
Solutions to our problems “are sleeping through the revolution,”

Martin said. For every Viet Cong soldier we kill, we spend $500,000 to do so,
He said. And asked us how much we spend to educate a child or lift a sister
Out of poverty. And Audre Lorde, who reminded us constantly of the dead
We left behind and the dead we had yet to encounter, told us also about

The woman she loved who drew for her a bath of old roses.
And as Audre counted women caught in traps, one by one until
She reached the fifteenth one, the one with the courage to change
The question, Marge Piercy counted still others, living and dying

On street corners and discovered she was one of those with
The heart to endure and to love, “… the love we cupped so clumsily,”
the love raging and driving, “… an engine of light,” she wrote.
Just so did Langston Hughes remind us of the mourners, who

“Got up smiling, happy they were here.” And Dylan Thomas
Urged us to resist, “to not go gentle into that good night.”
How much did he charge us with, to waste nothing,
Least of all, ourselves? And having decided to live on,

How should we live? Anne Sexton tells us there is always more,
A for instance: the boy who finds a nickel and looks for a wallet,
Finds a string and looks for a harp, finds a golden key and
Unlocks a book of mysteries and fables and princesses and ogres.

This is something and there is more: the sunny days and open wounds
Of childhood, from where we came, troubled but standing,
And with Paticia Smith, “determined not to write a poem
Glorifying loss”

The uncontrasted gray of some days and other
Days of blood and tears and bursts of laughter.
Or as Ginsberg had it, “Candor ends paranoia…
Notice what you notice…catch yourself thinking.”

Of course, he adds, “others can measure their vision by what we see,”
Another way of saying that in our shared experiences and love lies
Liberation. Giovanni said that, too. “She’s our own star
shining from afar her life a beacon of who we are”

I am not a leader, but I know that there’s always another battle
And I hope to be there, following Martin, looking for ways that
Peaceful means can bring peaceful ends. In the meantime, as Giles said,
“There’s another Hellmouth under Cleveland,” and maybe we should go there.

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