From the archives: summer solstice/Juneteenth poems

Summer solstice II

Sun Ra told us years ago the planet
was doomed – yet we believed,
deep inside, that our exceptionalism
and our privilege would pull us through
in the end – except it didn’t.

The doom we thought we’d avert
eventually consumed us, along
with everybody/everything else.

I had a large garden plot when I lived
in the mountains. Grew a row of sunflowers
from seed on the eastern border.

When they grew so tall with flowers
like crowns, I named each and called
them my ladies. Then one evening
in the valley of the lilies, we were visited
by a microburst – strange weather
in those mountains – and every tall thing
was leveled.

Each poem I write is about these things:
love, family/race and poetry. There.
You have the key. No need to guess,
I’ll tell you what’s up. I can’t escape
this destiny, and I cannot hide my pen.


June 20, 2016

Summer solstice

A migration,
a journey by moonlight,
from one ​sacred state
to a​nother –

move fast though,
‘cause the night,
well​-​lit, is short,
which means no time
for reading signs
and prayers for good fortune
on the road.

The shortest​ ​distance
between two points
is a straight line –
or a tesseract ​​
for time travelers​ ​
among us.

Another year
won’t kill them,
and the cotton crop
demands their presence.

But this particular
convergence comes
once a generation,
so their next chance
will be less fortuitous –
as will ours.

A long day, a bright moon,
and a lost year.
And a journey
to bridge a gap in space.


June 17, 2016

Here we are, the convergence of summer
solstice, “strawberry” full moon, Ramadan
midpoint, and Juneteenth, and I need to write
a poem about it, a sonnet, perhaps.
I’ve written summer solstice poems before,
the longest day, the shortest night, and what
that’s worth, but this conjunction is richer,
holier than the things I wrote before.


Morning Walk – Summer Solstice

I make my morning walk today,
it is the summer solstice, after all –
the first morning of summer,
the longest day, the shortest night –

But what good is that,
I say –
a short night is not worth
a plug nickel –

we love the night,
we make love at night,
sweet love we hope
will never end,
an endless night of love –
we dream pure dreams
at night, and pray
those dreams come true –
we plot and strategize
our plan of attack
in the wee hours,
at the midnight hour,
at night.

Of what value, then,
is a short night?

Crossing the bridge,
I shift my timepiece
from 88five to 103five,
“traffic and weather
together, on the eights,”
and the neurons start to fire
in rapid succession…

the tide is high –
portions of the shore
normally exposed
are submerged.
I pause and watch
as the crawling critters
flee the flood and seek
refuge on higher ground,
inching closer and closer
to the human walking trail –
I see tall stalks
of phytolacca americana
growing in groves
along the shore,
sprouting long green leaves,
greens my ancestors used to eat,
as they headed north,
to escape an immoral
oppression. “It’s poison
if you don’t cook it right…”
I can hear them whisper
through the soft rush
of the running tide…

my baby sister is writing poetry
again, mostly in her letters.
I think about her as I turn the corner
onto Frances Scott Key Bridge.
She is the better poet,
she has the gift,
the power to apaziguar o dor –
that’s what friends are for.

I’m nearing home,
my walk almost complete.
The longest day of the year
opens its arms before me.
“From the Shenandoah
to the Chesapeake,”
WTOP says on the radio —
all day long.

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