Sisters mine, beloveds
those bones are not my child.
I am a woman at point zero;
unburnable.
The wind done gone
into a dark alliance
forged from the devil’s pulpit.

Daughters of the Sun, Women of the Moon
a mercy, please.
Let’s make dust tracks
and leave the dilemma of this ghost
to those who live in a city so grand..
Those bones are not my child.

Word of mouth spread
among the not-so-little women
with no technical difficulties.
The blues people, midwives
to a people’s history,
who believed horses
make a landscape look more beautiful,
shed petals of blood
as they walked on fire
to grieve
in a land without thunder.

 

 

Book titles used in this piece:

Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

Beloved and A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Those Bones are not my Child by Toni Cade Bambara

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

Unburnable by Marie-Elena John

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

Dark Alliance by Gary Webb

From the Devil’s Pulpit by John Agard

Daughters of the Sun, Women of the Moon, ed. Ann Wallace

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston

Dilemma of a Ghost by Ama Ata Aidoo  

A City So Grand by Stephen Puleo

Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Technical Difficulties by June Jordan

Blues People by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful by Alice Walker

Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance, ed. Beverly Bell

Land without Thunder by Grace Ogot

On my book blog, I have written about how absolutely fascinated I am by the Great Dismal Swamp. I have started but not yet finished Daniel A. Sayers’ A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archaeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp; started but not yet finished Charles Royster’s The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington’s Time; started and finished Sylviane A. Diouf’s Slavery’s Exiles. All that starting and not [yet] finishing led to a bout of writing that turned out to be a series of centos that basically described the founding of Virginia, one of the two states which formed around the Great Dismal Swamp.

Even though I have not yet finished two of the books mentioned above, research detours led me to The Westover Manuscripts written by William Byrd, colonial founder of Richmond, Virginia. The source material for the cento part of the series is drawn from that document.

I have been playing around with how to present these pieces since, at this point in time, they won’t be in my next book. I thought of just putting all the pieces in one post and  letting them be read that way. But that idea didn’t sit too easy, visually speaking. So I decided to kind of serialize them.

Click here to read the first in the series.

 

 

Faces and Masks Cento

December 3, 2015

I don’t normally incorporate poetic forms in my work but having come across the form of the cento, I thought that sounds interesting. I flipped through several books to pick the words that would form the basis of the piece. The lyricism of Eduardo Galeono’s trilogy Memory of Fire fired my imagination the most for this exercise and so I went with Faces and Masks, the 2nd volume in the series. Here is my attempt at a cento:

 

Ever since dawn
the ground has been steaming
pleading for a drink
while the living seek shade
and fan themselves.

Hidalgo spent the night with his eyes
fixed on the ceiling of the cell
saying goodbye:

my father didn’t put me among the rich
or the generals or those who have money
or claim to have it.

my father put me with the poor
because i am poor.

At the edge of the village of Morón
a common grave
swallows the bones of a poet
who until yesterday
had a guitar
and a name.

His unshrouded body
ends up in the earth;
his couplets, also naked,
also plebeian,
abide in the winds.

On the street
someone plucks
lamentations
from a guitar.