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.
The news comes like a stone:
cancer devoured his upful locks
and a sister collected the clumps
of carefully nurtured holiness
in a plastic bag to be matted
into a wig like a crown for the
bald Natty Dread in his casket.
He fell so low and the chemo seemed
like treachery. It all turned
worthless, this fighting, this
scramble for a cure, a way out;
this confession of mortality:
O Jah, O Jah, why has thou
forsaken thy son? O Jah,
the veil is black like this night,
black like the treacherous road;
when it wet it slippery,
see me sliding, tumbling down;
see how this sickness make my soul
black as jet, caution, caution,
and my brothers, all they can say
is walk, walk, walk, walk, walk,
like the bubbling syncopations
of the synthesizer’s left-hand jumps.
But who will walk with me,
who will carry the lamp on this path,
whose breathing will reassure me
of a company waiting on the other side?
My brethren will forsake me,
I walk into so many dark places
while I wait for the coming of light.
Reggae rides the airwaves
and this island sound dark
for the passing of a song.