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Poetry - September, 2007
The ground of being
Sep 18, 2007
The artist’s eye caught the bent iron grating intended to separate
the living from the dead, the bars pulled apart as though a wandering
had recovered his human form, escaped a deadened community. The
lens focused the rows of tampered vaults, doors nearly askew, lines
of dead diminishing to infinity. Framed by pillars past, the photo pressed
absence of brass bands blowing funereal dirges, colorful umbrellas
to the beat, second-liners celebrating release. I thought of reading old
of George Washington Cable and Grace King, the scourge of yellow
the cycle of death and renewal acted out in another century. Or my own
and renewal in the sixties, the damp breeze blowing across the iron bed
where I lay reading Paul Tillich one Saturday afternoon. His text called
into question all that Pleasant Bethel Baptist Church had taught me,
I had never allowed to take root, Noah’s flood, the sacrificial testing of
Esther’s dubious path to the throne. Driving past Lafayette Cemetery
to seminary classes, I pondered the rationale for burying the dead
above the ground, the belief that levees would hold, the cockeyed
that the mystical combination of voodoo and faith would somehow
render the Big Easy indomitable. Katrina changed all that,
but New Orleans has always shunted bones to the rear, reopened
for the newly dead, believed in resurrection.
Was blind, but now I see
Sep 04, 2007
You have your sight
and yet you cannot see
Driving into the city to teach
in gray-green late summer,
I see one flaming red maple
and think of Oedipus
standing dangerously above the hoi polloi.
But it is Moses’ tree,
a call story on a highway hillside.
I want to stop traffic,
shout, “Take off your shoes, people!”
For the world is on fire
with a beauty so fragile that,
like the thread of ash
after the stick of incense burns,
one breath can topple it.