Hagar in the Wilderness

Tyehimba Jess
Carved Marble. Edmonia Lewis, 1875
 
My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carved me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.
God of each eye fixed to heaven,
God of the fallen water jug,
of all the hope a vessel holds
before spilling to barren sand.
God of flesh hewn from earth
and hammered beneath a will
immaculate with the power
to bear life from the lifeless
like a well in a wasteland.
I'm made in the image of a God
that knows flight but stays me
rock still to tell a story ancient as
slavery, old as the first time
hands clasped together for mercy
and parted to find only their own
salty blessing of sweat.
I have been touched by my God
in my creation, I've known her caress
of anointing callus across my face. 
I know the lyric of her pulse
across these lips...  and yes,
I've kissed the fingertips
of my dark and mortal God.
She has shown me the truth
behind each chiseled blow
that's carved me into this life,
the weight any woman might bear 
to stretch her mouth toward her
one true God, her own
beaten, marble song.
 
 
Edmonia Lewis (1845-1907) was an African/Native American expatriate sculptor who was phenomenally successful in Rome.

More by Tyehimba Jess

Blind Boone’s Apparitions

John William Boone (1864-1927) world-renowned Ragtime                pianist.

C

my motto for life

                      - merit, not sympathy, wins-

                                              my song against death.

E♭

i stroke piano’s

                           eighty eight mouths. each one sings

                                        hot colors of joy

                                                                                                 F

                                                                                     pentatonic black

                                                                 keys raise up high into bliss,

                                                 born to sing my name

                       F#

                    whippoorwill, hawk, crow

                                   sing madrigals for blind men.

                    forests blooms through each note.


                                   G

                               my eyes: buried deep

                                             beneath earth’s skin. my vision

                               begins in her womb.


                             B♭

                         darkness sounds like God

                                             flowering from earth's molten tomb...

                         writhed wind. chorded cries.

C

rain, flower, sea, wind

           map my dark horizon. i

                                              inhale earth’s songbook

 

Mercy

the war speaks at night
with its lips of shredded children,
with its brow of plastique
and its fighter jet breath,
and then it speaks at daybreak
with the soft slur of money
unfolding leaf upon leaf.
it speaks between the news
programs in the music
of commercials, then sings
in the voices of a national anthem.
it has a dirty coin jingle in its step,
it has a hand of many lost hands,
a palm of missing fingers,
the stump of an arm that it lost
reaching up to heaven, a foot
that digs a trench for its dead.
the war staggers forward,
compelled, inexorable, ticking.
it looks to me
with its one eye of napalm
and one eye of ice,
with its hair of fire
and its nuclear heart,
and yes, it is so human
and so pitiful as it stands there,
waiting for my hand.
it wants to know my answer.
it wants to know how i intend
to show it out of its misery,
and i only want it
to teach me how to kill.