Monday, February 18, 2013


A revision to my previous post, "Searching for Sterling."  This is recast as something more like an address to Sterling Brown.  The poem has now gone in the direction I initially planned, but hadn't drafted.  Still not sure, though, if this is basically the final form, or if substantive changes are still needed.


(With acknowledgement to Sterling Brown’s After Winter)

Somewhere in these North Laurel woods
I imagine there are butter beans,
radishes and lettuce, eggplant and beets,
growing and reseeding year after year,
an anthology of vegetables appearing after each winter
to remind us of you, Sterling Brown,
and the words that you found in the streets and the fields,
giving voice to the lives of hardworking folks.

So many winters have passed,
and with them the rural community you knew,
paved over and consumed by suburban sprawl.
There are offices now where your family farmed;
parking lots cover the fields where you ran.

If you were here, who would you write about?
The single mother struggling to make ends meet.
The young men in prison just up the road,
men without prospects when they are released.
The immigrant working to send money home.

The small shopping center where folks congregate,
teens hanging outside the dollar store;
the black professional woman rushing home late
and the older white man who holds open the door
of the restaurant as she carries Chinese food out.

In the motels along Route 1, the suburban poor,
and middle class families just blocks away.
And, those in the shadows looking to score
something to help them get through the day.

Would you write about the kids who grew up in this place
and think nothing about their friends’ creed or race?
Would you write about all that has changed,
while noticing that much has still stayed the same?

Ah, Sterling, this community needs poets
to give voice to the people and bring life into view,
more than merely your name on the road
that leads to where the butter beans grew.

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