No Ruined Stone

- 1972-
When the dead return 
they will come to you in dream 
and in waking, will be the bird 
knocking, knocking against glass, seeking 
a way in, will masquerade 
as the wind, its voice made audible 
by the tongues of leaves, greedily 
lapping, as the waves’ self-made fugue 
is a turning and returning, the dead 
will not then nor ever again 
desert you, their unrest 
will be the coat cloaking you, 
the farther you journey 
from them the more 
that distance will maw in you, 
time and place gulching 
when the dead return to demand 
accounting, wanting 
and wanting and wanting
 everything you have to give and nothing 
will quench or unhunger them 
as they take all you make as offering. 
Then tell you to begin again.

More by Shara McCallum

What I'm telling you [excerpt]

Reincarnation, life everlasting--
call it whatever you will--

it will not change
the facts: we are ashes of stellar death.

And, in the end, wishing on shooting stars
is like pinning your hopes

on the last sound of the whistle
trailing off, last chord of the train

sparking on the tracks
then fading into the dark.

Miss Sally on Love

In my time, I was a girl who like to spree.
The whole world would open fi mi

if I shift mi hips to strain
the fabric of mi skirt, just so.

Still, I did learn mi lesson
where love concern: if snake bite yu,

when yu see even lizard, crawling
with him belly on ground, yu run.

Now the gal come to mi, say she fall in love
with man who have a plan fi change.

But she nuh notice him also carry gun?
And, lawd, how she nuh see

who running the show and who
keeping house same way?

Related Poems

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, Great-Niece of Lord Mansfield, and Her Cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, c. 1779 (by unknown artist)

A Black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies...Lord M...calls her Dido, which I suppose is all the name she has. He knows he has been reproached for showing fondness for her...

        From The Diary and Letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson,
        August 1779

Dido moves quickly—
as from the Latin anime.

Breath or soul.
Beside her, the generations-free kin,

a biscuit figurine in pink.
Dido standing in irony—

the lowest are taller here—
Elizabeth should provide

an unkind contrast: pretty, blond,
pale in uncovered places—

but no.
The painter worships the quickened other.

Dido, his coquette of deep-dish
dimples, his careless, bright love.

Forget history.
She's a teenager.

We know what that means.
Cocky, stupid about reality.

No thought of babies—
feathers in her arms.

She might wave them, clearing
dead mothers from the air—

and surely, she's special—
her uncle dressed her with care,

hid her from triangles and seas
outside this walled garden.

Let her be.
Please.

No Dying Mythical Queen
weaving a vivid, troubled skin—

but Dido, full of girlhood,
and Elizabeth reaching

a hand. Behave, cousin,
she begs.

Don't run away from me.

Dido was the great-niece of William Murray, First Earl of Mansfield; as Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, he is responsible for the Somersett ruling (1772), which essentially outlawed slavery in England, though not in the colonies.