On 30

I really wanted to give some sort of eulogy to the past 30 years before I was done with them, but then I remembered that Audre Lorde had already done it for me.

Haunted by poems beginning with I
seek out those whom I love who are deaf
to whatever does not destroy

or curse the old ways that did not serve us
while history falters and our poets are dying
choked into silence by icy distinction
death rattles blind curses
and I hear even my own voice becoming
a pale strident whisper
At night sleep locks me into an echoless coffin
sometimes at noon I dream
there is nothing to fear
now standing up in the light of my father sun
without shadow
I speak without concern for the accusations
that I am too much or too little woman
that I am too Black or too white
or too much myself
and through my lips comes the voices
of the ghosts of our ancestors
living and moving among us.


Hear my heart's voice as it darkens
pulling old rhythms out of the earth
that will receive this piece of me
and a piece of each one of you
when our part in history quickens again
and is over:


Hear
the old ways are going away
and coming back pretending change
masked as denunciation and lament
masked as a choice
between an eager mirror that blurs and distorts us
in easy definitions until our image
shatters along its fault
or the other half of that choice
speaking to out hidden fears with a promise
our eyes need not seek any truer shape-
a face at high noon particular and unadorned-
for we have learned to fear
the light from clear water might destroy us
with reflected emptiness or a face without tongue
with no love or with terrible penalties
for any difference
and even as I speak remembered pain is moving
shadows over my face, my own voice fades and
my brothers and sisters are leaving;


Yet when I was a child
whatever my mother thought would mean survival
made her try to beat me whiter every day
and even now the color of her bleached ambition
still forks throughout my words
but I survived
and didn't I survive confirmed
to teach my children where her errors lay
etched across their faces between the kisses
that she pinned me with asleep
and my mother beating me
as white as snow melts in the sunlight
loving me into her bloods black bone-
the home of all her secret hopes and fears
and my dead father whose great hands
weakened in my judgment
whose image broke inside of me
beneath the weight of failure
helps me to know who I am not
weak or mistaken
my father loved me alive
to grow and hate him
and now his grave voice joins hers
within my words rising and falling
are my sisters and brothers listening?

The children remain
like blades of grass over the earth and
all the children are singing
louder that mourning
all their different voices
sound like a raucous question
they do not live in fear of empty mirrors
they have seen their faces defined in a hydrant's puddle
before the rainbows of oil obscured them
The time of lamentation and curses is passing.

My mother survives
though more than chance or token.
Although she will read what I write
with embarrassment or anger
and a small understanding
my children do not need to relive my past
in strength nor in confusion
nor care that their holy fires
may destroy more than my failures.

Somewhere in the landscape past noon
I shall leave a dark print of the me that I am
and who I am not
etched in a shadow
of angry and remembered loving
and their ghosts will move
whispering through them
with me none the wiser for they will have buried me
either in shame
or in peace.



 

 

And the grasses will still be
Singing.