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.
A Way of Seeing
It all comes from this dark dirt,
memory as casual as a laborer.
Remembrances of ancestors
kept in trinkets, tiny remains
that would madden anthropologists
with their namelessness.
No records, just smells of stories
passing through most tenuous links,
trusting in the birthing of seed from seed;
this calabash bowl of Great-grand
Martha, born a slave’s child;
this bundle of socks, unused
thick woolen things for the snow—
he died, Uncle Felix, before the ship
pushed off the Kingston wharf,
nosing for winter, for London.
He never used the socks, just
had them buried with him.
So, sometimes forgetting the panorama
these poems focus like a tunnel,
to a way of seeing time past,
a way of seeing the dead.