Wednesday, June 10, 2009

for francis ellen watkins harper (3)

for u there need be no monument
for francis ellen watkins harper
i ask no monument, proud and high,
to arrest the gaze of passers-by;
all that my yearning spirit craves,
is bury me not in a land of slaves…
for u there need be no monument, born free in a
slave state, yr father’s name lost to history – yr
poetry was always free.

for u there need be no monument, who grew up
among frederick douglass’ friends, living at one
time in an underground railroad station;

who became john brown’s fervent friend,
recognizing his white gift to yr people, long
before his body lay a molderin’ in his grave.

for u there need be no monument, yr poems,
reeking of longfellow & greenleaf whittier,
preached moral uplift; rebuked peculiar slavery &

counseled the oppressed to free themselves from
demoralized condition. perhaps yr domestic work
in that quaker household – whose library was

sanctuary for a precocious teen & brief respite –
was enough to let the flame of moral courage burn,
grow strong, bade u speak, oracular & oratorically,

in poetic voice, in vernacular speech, long before
the impassioned lines of james edwin campbell,
long before the brilliant paul lawrence dunbar,

for the young anonymous black slave girl,
snatched & sold from a mother’s warm &
comforting arms to the licentious clutches
of libertine or preying profligates –
for the black slave mother, whose chained
heart was ripped & shredded by mournful
separations –
for the enlightened consciousness of a
woman who once believed that romance &
married love was the only goal & center of
her life.

for u there need be no monument, who lived to see
slavery fall & turned the sharpened edge of yr
verse to a woman’s true freedom;

to emancipation from alcohol; to a life of joy &
trust in the divine, of forgiveness & self-surrender.
for u there need be no monument.

© Joseph McNair;2009

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