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.
I cannot speak the languages
spoken in that vessel,
cannot read the beads
I know this only,
that when the green of land
appeared like light
after the horror of this crossing,
we straightened our backs
and faced the simplicity
of new days with flame.
I know I have the blood of survivors
coursing through my veins;
I know the lament of our loss
must warm us again and again
down in the belly of the whale,
here in the belly of the whale
where we are still searching for homes.
We sing laments so old, so true,
then straighten our backs again.