Wednesday, May 27, 2009

for countee cullen

for countee cullen
dead men are wisest, for they know
how far the roots of flowers go,
how long a seed must rot to grow…
from “the wise.”
they say u wrote classic verse –
boisterous ballads, silky sonnets,
quaint quatrains, & the like –
much better & more beautifully
than most. yr keats more
keatsian, more rococo in word
choice, more sensual in image
than the englishman himself.
were u white & british, u might
easily have been ushered to the
front ranks of romantic english
parades. but in spite of yr
genuine skill & power, yr
intimate & acute understanding
of yr poetself, u were boyishly
black & shy & as such no one
guessed apart from the
evidentiary lines that screamed
from of yr verse that u knew how
deeply the roots of yr poems
pushed downward into a dank
dark soil, into a moist, nurturing
aesthetic; that u had for sooth
foreseen there the breaking
dormancy of yr creative seed, the
rot-rending of its thick coat
before germinal grace, before
growth, long after yr demise.
i am so glad to be now alive to
pick yr poetic fruit; to bite into &
savor its sweet pulp, swallow its
seeds, knowing that as they pass
through me, their thick seed coats
will weaken enough to sprout

©Joseph McNair; 2009