This morning I got up, put on a pot of coffee, and re-read Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts (Hank’s mention), followed by William Carlos Williams’ Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. The pumps all primed, I wrote this sonnet and posted it to my blog to commemorate our time together at the Beaux Arts Library of Congress.
Now I have all the fountain pens I need:
one stores empyrean blue – I save it
for ceremonies; two for writing poems
use my private mixture of navy blue
and forest green – I call it navy green;
and one to highlight when and where I read –
its name is firefly (but truth be told,
I add a drop of navy green for depth
and taste). There are complaints each time I mix
my inks or fill my pens – imagine if
I were a painter? But that logic
gets me no consolation. Horace wrote
about a link between the two. Again,
no sympathy inside this loving house.
I know this coffee’s gonna be the end
of me. I’ve weathered storms, outlived a few
of my best friends and my worst enemies.
Each day I write a poem. Most are garbage
that revisions cannot save. Still, the past
fades and the future beckons – poetry
to write for the living and the unborn,
for those yet to come, and their tomorrows.
Two pennies in my pocket, two gold coins
to pay for the passage, two wings to veil
my face. We are going to the City:
a new level of organization,
a higher plane. Y’all know what all it means.
Put on your life vests. The ride is bumpy.
I missed WHCA* again this year –
no poets or librarians were invited –
truth and information again
were in short supply.
And though you’d think reporters
would have taken up the slack –
They dropped the ball again.
No invitation reached my mailbox –
no poets or librarians were invited –
just frowning light-dazed reporters
and foul-mouthed comedians.
No poets or librarians were invited
to WHCA* this year. Again. Too bad.
Just glitziness (is that a word?),
fake body parts, and phony platitudes.
*white House Correspondents Association Dinner
No longer bound by the necessities
of daily toil to make loose ends meet,
I want to spend this new age
learning to love and appreciate
all the fruits of our joint inheritance.
We made a road trip North and West to see
the wonders sought and wrought by kindred souls
of a shared diaspora who fled and
escaped by night the sting of the Jim Crow
lash they knew a century ago.
All part of our inheritance. We stand.
We march in triumph or remain at rest –
It’s pretty much the same. Our spirits merge
with kith and kin, soar wildly ‘cross the air.
Many millenia elapsed between
the random grunt and coherent language.
Many more still between oralizing
and writing symbols, words as surrogates
for feelings and thoughts. Now that we are here –
and all the pieces have come together –
we can spend a moment in reflection.
The faculties of sight, smell, sound, taste, touch –
are channels for engagement with the world
that surrounds us. Not separate things, they merge
and blend in our deep imagination
and in dreams. If our impressions reflect
an impure sensory response, our words –
oral and written – mirror their shadows.
It had to be a total work of art.
A half, a third, a fourth of a movement
would not suffice. A huge splash was required
to capture Americans’ attention –
enslaved and free – to rock a boat steering
on a faulty course. He knew it would be
all or nothing, a tiny mustard seed
planted in a rocky soil – without hope
for immediate success. A symbol –
political, spiritual – for future
generations when freedom’s wind would blow
to every compass point across the land.
With no chance of victory he labored,
meticulously planning each detail.
I subscribe to the obituary
page of my hometown daily newspaper.
Obviously black people do not die
in the city of my birth – I never
see their faces. I know it’s just not true.
I left my hometown many years ago,
but never stopped hoping for a return,
wishing her well. Every poet wishes
he could play guitar – the grass is always
greener on the other side of the road –
or whatever it is that divides us
from our origin, the root of our being.
Life continues, the struggle continues,
as long as a ray of hope lights the path.