For August Wilson No one quarrels here, no one has learned the yell of discontent—instead, here in Sumter we learn to grow silent, build a stone of resolve, learn to nod, learn to close in the flame of shame and anger in our hearts, learn to petrify it so, and the more we quiet our ire, the heavier the stone; this alchemy of concrete in the vein, the sludge of affront, until even that will calcify and the heart, at last, will stop, unassailable, unmovable, adamant. Find me a man who will stand on a blasted hill and shout, find me a woman who will break into shouts, who will let loose a river of lament, find the howl of the spirit, teach us the tongues of the angry so that our blood, my pulse—our hearts flow with the warm healing of anger. You, August, have carried in your belly every song of affront your characters have spoken, and maybe you waited too long to howl against the night, but each evening on some wooden stage, these men and women, learn to sing songs lost for centuries, learn the healing of talk, the calming of quarrel, the music of contention, and in this cacophonic chorus, we find the ritual of living.
for Soloman Ephraim Woolfe
Son, who is dat?
Is de African Postman, Daddy
East from Addis Ababa, and then south
deep into the Rift Valley, I can hear the horns
trumpeting over the flat-roofed acacia trees,
see the African women bend low with wood
heavy on their backs, and the cows, goats,
donkeys, mules, sheep, and horses snapped
into obedient herds by sprinting children,
move along the roadside. Life happens here.
I am traveling to the land I have heard about,
Shashamane, the green place, five hundred acres
of Jah’s benevolence, and I know now that
I long to hear the rootsman tell me how,
despite rumors of his passing, the natty
keeps on riding, keeps on standing in the fields
of praise to hold on to the faith of roots people.
Brother Solomon, you put the name Ephraim
on your head and carry the face of the true
Rasta, the face of an Ashanti warrior, eyes deep
under heavy lids, and your skin tight as leather,
blacker dan black. I have met you before
on the streets of Kingston, there where you trod
to the hiss and slander of the heathen, you,
natty dread, gathering the people’s broken minds
into your calabash. You carry it all, tell them
Return to the roots, the healing shall take place.
You are Burning Spear’s voice in the fields of teff,
you tell me of the prophecy of Marcus,
and I listen to you, through the phlegm,
through the gruff of your voice, and suddenly
when I ask about the passing of the Emperor,
you rise up like a staff of correction, your voice
reaching back to the mountains, your warrior
self, your yardman greatness, and you speak
a mystery of those who have ears but won’t hear,
and those who have eyes and won’t see,
and I know/ that this dread will one day stand
in this soil, and find his feet growing roots,
that soon the earth will be darker for the arrival
of Solomon. Let the heathen rage, let the doubters
scoff, let this Ghanaian youth whose eyes
have seen the face of Jesus Christ, let him too
sit and marvel at the face of the natty.
For this African Postman has forsaken
father and mother, and has come to stand
before His Imperial Majesty, to call only him
Father, so that the Father might call him son,
and the world will carry on its weary march,
and the ibises will swoop in the Ethiopian dusk
and the smoke will rise from wood fires,
and the night will come with news that the rootsman,
after four hundred years of being told
he is homeless, has come home, yes, Jah,
has come home.
Sons and daughters of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie,
Earth Rightful Ruler, without any apology say:
This is the time when I and I and I should come home,
yes, Jah… Nah leggo! Nah leggo! Nah leggo!