Monday, December 22, 2014

After Sterling (version 7)

Almost there.  Here's version 7.  Not too different from version 6.  I got rid of most of the prepositions and worked on choice of words and rhythm a bit. I plan to share this poem in January with my writers group.  So, expect more changes.  This one, though, is pretty close to final (I think).


(with acknowledgment to Sterling Brown’s After Winter)

Somewhere in these North Laurel woods,
I imagine there are butter beans,
radishes and lettuce, eggplants and beets
to remind us of you, Sterling Brown,
and the words that you found
in the fields and the streets
giving dignity and voice to hardworking folks.

Grass grows where plows once cut.
Buildings rise from the fields where you ran.
The rural place you knew is gone.
Harmony Lane (or what remains)
no longer leads to the Freedman’s town,
its small frame houses lost
to rising values of land.
The colored school, torn down
to make way for more homes.
History lives in this county
to the north and the west.
Down here, our memories 

have been bulldozed and paved,
the past left only in the names of roads,
including the one they named after you.

There’s still much you would recognize:
People making their way
through life’s weariness and joy,
the defeats that grind some down,
determination and will that push some to rise.
Race and class still divide

(though in more subtle form),
push some to the margins,
and keep us all from being whole.

It’s all here, Sterling, same as your day.
But, where is our poet
bringing words from the fields?
Who will sing the stories
that get down deep in our souls?

Ah, Sterling, we are the poets.
We sing the calls that demand a response.
But isn’t that what you already knew?
That a poet is more than a name on the road
that leads to where the butter beans grew.

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