Arts & Culture / The Reading Room / Vol. 2 No. 1-2

Almost Another Spring: Elegy for Our Moment

Lois Mailou Jones, Paris Rooftops, Montmartre

Image Credit: Lois Mailou Jones, Paris Rooftops, Montmartre, 1965, Courtesy of the Lois Mailou Jones Pierre-Noel Trust

“But God, such a long journey ahead for you and me”
                                                     Andre Brink

i

this is a hard poem to begin.

old hopes return just piece by serrated piece,
teeth of cut glass but making way for tears-
see how my finger tip is polished with water –
binds me on the wheel of self-improvement

today a camp was made. another strafed.
people are crammed into a void of loss
i see them caught in images of bone
& over them, the voice of competence
some young reporter finishing a job.

it gave me once again the me who walked
silent, through a crazed city, where flames
were liberating hatred, where the air
could not be breathed,  where grey
dust settled a persistent skin of death.

even though i do not speak your language
and you prefer not to speak mine
something has brought us almost to touch one another
& if I am frightened now, at least I know it
& that it is only right to be this frightened

the deepest feeling is the hardest word

ii

break off from me a limb of ancient knowledges
i am a lizard. i will grow again.
for it has to do with an old man
leaning against a hard wall, starving
without conviction, camp refuge wrong now.

we need ancient kill-or-cure remedies
the shock of living words
or now are they just shells,
intent to only take out misconceptions?
of course nothing can be secure

when words cannot explode rightly
for reconstruction, with that flash of kindness-
never to falsify. never forget
that if language should choose you
you will be worked. for an abused language

is like an abandoned mine- it may blow up
dead in your face. or it can give advice-
do not go on failing people,  the whole of earth,
fire, water. stop leaving nothing to the best of chance.
or just refuse to speak. ever again.

you see this fingertip, shining, today
in the bright, bright sunshine,  treasuring
a droplet of clear response, opening the way
back to the old place, where we can see now,
through what has failed us most, the old wrong turning.

say it. it is all we have to cleanse the wounding.

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