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.
Rain and ashes seal my lips
In the season of drought and hurricane,
this stiff earth cracks and the spawned
eggs of mosquitoes burst into a plague
of coughs and side stitches. Every wild bird
predicts a plague of woes. All around us
the whisper is of “Last Days”, the coming
of the end, and the tyranny of present danger.
December 21, 2005, Marvin Williams,
ex-Drill Sergeant and born-again Arkansas
cotton-picker, remembers the morning he
was bumped from the airliner that flamed
over Lockerbie. Blessed, he says, trying
to calculate the debts he still owes.
Why was he kept; for what?
The dragonflies are dying,
and in the suburbs the pandemic
runs amok. Our bodies betray us
and the summer’s heat warms
the sea, as deep as plummet sounds.
In the desert it rains in deluge,
while the glaciers vanish from mountains.
The stars die a million years ago.
On a beach in Bahia,
a congregation in white descends
to the water’s edge, singing. The surf lips
the disembowelled carcasses of small
animals. A rash of flowers eddies
on the swollen surface like a garland of prayer.
Better go to the house of mourning
than to the house of feasting.