Saturday Sep 23

Weaver photo (Lynda Koolish) Afaa M. Weaver (born Michael S. Weaver), in a career that began in the 1970's, has worked as a poet, playwright, short fiction writer, journalist, and editor. His professional theater credits include the PDI Award for playwriting from ETA theater in Chicago. The Plum Flower Dance is his tenth collection of poetry. His home is one of the neighborhoods depicted in "The Wire."

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Understanding the Mysteries
 
                        “…God is not the author of confusion…”
                                    Corinthians I 14:33
 
 The way…
 
The harness comes tight up under the throat, whistle
caught the way the desert tightens a howl in hot dust
without air, the single hairs on your arm at night the pages
in the book that will write itself in your grave, your bones
turning with the embryo still caught, a peculiar failure
of the body that makes sages weep, no mesh for the night
of death to keep the maggots away, no gathering of prayers
in the loom that moves the veil between here and there,
the gate where bodhisattvas sit to counsel the desperate,
their song something you take as fool’s gold, roiling
last chances, throwing them back to the mixing bowl
sitting somewhere in the continuum of space and time.
My grandfather is your father, your feet on the running
board of the 1940 Chevrolet, when America dreamed
its highways, the connection that bound us to dead ends,
as you build your own ultimatums, no way to see the engine
of what drives you to speak holy names as convenience,
no sense of Ghandi, no sense of lying down to let wrong
write itself in the heart’s tablet, exorcise this thing in you,
a mutated ambition, you the son of the morning light.


 
 
 
The Government of Nature
                        Dear body of mine..

 
Rosetta stone of my soul, familia vascellum,
I have brought you to the arbor of memories,
in the clinging vines, playing black spirituals
for parakeets with mouths turned upward,
as we were when we came into the world,
me a sheaf of unwritten contracts, you a chemistry
wrestled out of love and fate, dear body of mine,
organs and nerves, vessels, pineal window
to inner space, the intersections of visions.
 
 
What abbreviated paternoster do we summon
in the night when the hand upturns the sacred portion
of a child and mixes the nerves to make monsters,
uses them for what feels unnatural, abridges
and aborts the will, or is it the will itself come down
to the only path that will let us be the difficult unknown
in the calculus that is our test along the way
to forgetting, as we agreed to this, to the pain,
the crying out for mother as trusted hands molest
a child split from the herd to bind it with karma
until the Dhammapada nods the way to nirvana.
 
 
I come with you to places I cannot go alone, as alone
I would be only the decision to be, not the things
I cannot explain to anyone, except in the privacy
of a piety I have had to own, a profane saintliness
that came to me in places too foul to remain buried
in me, these places--lotus ponds, mountains, waterfalls,
divine insignia in closets, bedrooms, bathrooms-these
places a carnival I now name as redemption,
sins multiplying, lifting the eyes of cumulus clouds
praying over the urges that rise from memories
of rape, the loneliness kept in Grace’s silence.
 


 
 
The Teacher’s Prayer
 
                        “Miserable age, where the only reward of doing
                                    well is the doing of it!”
                                                --The Duchess of Malfi

 
In the corridors, on the same rugs, past the same forgotten smears,
dodging this, ignoring the studying of me as subject, thinking back
to whether I turned off the stove at home, I say the teacher’s prayer
for what may happen in the room where these minds are waiting
for what minds expect when someone has promised to give, to lay
the plan for getting one more inch ahead into a life where surprises
are glimpses of the past or the future’s dandruff, and the fretting begins--
                                    “Is my pencil really in my pocket?”
                                    “And why a pencil when I need a pen?’
These are the whole days, more confident than when I miss the first
bus from home, made late by a daydream, one sock in hand, necktie
in its own secret hiding space from me, wondering how I can forget
a writer’s name, or keep quiet about the way critical writing makes
me think it is all about living and dying and critics tend to the dead
but not here in this doorway to these faces, these minds, and I find the
broad smile and good tasting joke in that last miraculous second
when I put the books down on the table,
            but then, as a gloss, something to remember when you
want to forget this poem, the gloss of what I will do on the day the last
miraculous second fails. Will I be wise, I wonder, counting the faces?
So a teacher is this.
A teacher is that.
A teacher is someone
who will go home and read or reread the Duchess of Malfi
because he read a reference to it in a Bidart poem, and then read
or reread Webster’s headnote only because teaching does this,
makes you want to know or remember or just fucking feel like
one should know the province of all things.
            & they are all so young, and something hurts in all
of where my joints connect, where the memories and dreams of my life
are connected with locking tubes and cylinders stuffed with jelly,
and it is another day without a Motrin, because I take pain
over side effects whenever possible, so I begin the questioning,
ask myself how I came to be a man who teaches women how to make
the world something they can trust will give them what they need
on their own terms, and I see my mother in her old slippers
and blue house dress, the one my father and I put in the trash
to make her forget duty and the sagging way she neglected herself,
to make me forget the guilt of worrying her to death, firstborn
son locked in places that silence us, babbling something called poetry,
some locked up way of looking at things, I remember her holding
herself and rocking when they said I would always have to have
someone to look after me, my mind was that bad, and here they are,
in front of me, at the desk chairs on wheels where they have made
our circle, making adjustments for the man coming to sit with them,
pulling sweaters over their shoulders to respect me, or unloading
the arsenal of things to distract me, the low cuts, the slight attire
on a day when the air outside is cool enough to chill my bones,
the bones that feel like they are grinding each other into the end’s dust,
and I hear my mother from beyond the division death makes,
which is no division, telling me to take care of my little sisters, and
there is the brigade of aunts and otherwise female figures, cousins
close and then those removed, the presence in me that asks
me again why I am a man who teaches women, and one day I know
in one glance out at the beauty and youthfulness of teaching
that I want my mother to love me, to take me in her arms,
hold me so tight I will not fear anything and let me know love
is her province, and I its one subject, but I ease into my own chair
with wheels, open my teacher’s journal, move my lips to the mission
of knowing in one instant what it is to lead women into knowing,
as I forget the failures of a life, the broad blossoming head of regret.
 

 


Afaa M. Weaver photo by Lynda Koolish