Wednesday, June 10, 2009

for margaret walker (13)

reconciling the pride & the pain
for margaret walker

i want to frame their dreams into words;
their souls into notes. i want to catch their
sunshine laughter in a bowl; fling dark hands
to a darker sky
from “i want to write”

i felt my own pride rekindled as I scried
the bloody entralls of yr verse; when
i glimpsed the auguries made plain
in the patterns yr words made, i cried.
conscious of the struggle, then, to write
or die, my simple sanguine choice,
i chose to wield my wordswords high,
face death knell sounds; seize the night.
i rode the winds to nigeria to explore,
write thru’ her dense womblike jungles
& beaches made of sugary sands;
to seek & find a mythic self & more.
my feet tapped out sonnets as I walked
ibadan’s streets; evoked the voice of
jp clark. i saw her splash of rust & gold.
i thought of u & how u glibly talked
of palm jungles & stretches of a neverending
sea. i saw what u saw, tho’ i
doubt the one-room shacks & pudency
of yr old mobile poverty could ever
match the sordid living rot, the desolation
of africa’s poor, but I saw what u meant;
even felt the pride & pain, the towering
heights & the terribly tragic abrogation
of an ancient people brought so low –
i wrote sultans, emirs, obas & obongs,
obis, ochi’domas & tor tivs into my
poems; made them gratuitously glow
with historic dignity & authenticity.
but when i stood on yr fabled mountain
tops & looked down on the scenes below
i could not unsee for the life of me
the corruption, ethnic hatred & the same
soul killing poverty soiling that darkly
beautiful land, finishing what lugard
began, with no white man to blame.
& i learned from u, miss walker, how
to pawn the impact of my surroundings
for lyrical coin, for biblical chant &
experimental sonnets or every now
& then for free wrought lines that extol
or bemoan the plight of my people,
frame their pride & pain into my own
impassioned prosody & soothe my soul.

©Joseph McNair


  1. One of Chicago's three Sisters, Danner, Walker and Brooks. What an awesome cluster of contemporary talent. Walker made it easy for some of us to be or become black.

  2. Sunshine laughter in bowl, like a good soup or goolash. This one is great.