Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shadows Twenty-One

Zinnia with butterfly


Shadows Twenty-One

For Jaki

You looked so fragile, but I
knew even then that you were
tough. Now I look back on
your resurrections. After you
left that March day in 1973,
I saw a small white dogwood
blooming across the racist fields.
It named your spirit. A briefcase
full of poems: some loving, some
harsh. I felt their power. Then
that Fourth of July, when we 
went to Asheville, you with
baby Eva, and in your appointment
book for January, you wrote:
“background music, fireworks,
cheering,” and then, over and
over: “simmering of blood,
simmering of blood, simmering
of blood.” I put that page–110–
in your book. Those early years
I worried about your life. After
Imani died, I worried about
your health. In your grief, 
your hands were paralyzed. You
couldn’t write. You healed again,
and now they’ve honored you,
made you the state’s laureate poet.
You wanted me there to celebrate.
I offended many in those days 
forty-five years ago. I broke up
the cliques, published the writers 
who were different, who were
marginalized. Together we changed
those margins, and you’re alive
and still speaking truth.

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