Wednesday Dec 13

WeaverAfaaMichaelcreditLyndaKoolish Afaa Michael Weaver is a poet and playwright.  He has received grants and fellowships from the NEA and the Pew, and been a Fulbright scholar (2002) in Taiwan at National Taiwan University. His prizes include a Pushcart Prize and the May Sarton Award.  The author of twelve books of poetry, his most recent collections are The Plum Flower Dance (U of Pittsburgh P, 2007) and Like the Wind (2010), a translation of selected and new poems of his into Arabic by Wissal al-Allaq for the Kalima project based in the United Arab Emirates.  Afaa is a student of Chinese language and culture and works in translation projects involving contemporary Chinese poetry. He received his M.A. from Brown's graduate writing program where he studied with George H. Bass and Paula Vogel.  At Simmons College Afaa is the Alumnae Professor of English.  His official website is: www.afaamweaver.com.  There will be a panel devoted to Afaa’s work at the Modern Language Association’s Annual Convention in Los Angeles in January.
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At Antietam, this Civil War Yet Unresolved
 
 
The river Ganges is on NPR all upside the fence
running past the bumper of the car I have forgotten,
rough rails laid in X’s in places, stiff, stoic,
the river on the other side of the world where souls
remember instead of forgetting, folk washing
lives like dirty clothes, while I creep around corners
where the rifles and the screaming songs of the dead
lie in the grass to be awakened again.  Some southern
way sings in me, this is the ground I know.
 
For a soldier there is a last day written in a diary
we learn in training, one thing at a time, assemble,
disassemble, take the carriage apart in fifteen
seconds, apply a steady hand to the wound when
packs are too far away, hold the blood when it wants
to go, sing the prayer song your mother taught you
when she was about to make the journey cross
the river.  Stonewall Jackson said Let us lie
up under the tree for awhile and stop aching.
 
I got a mind to get out of the car and walk all over
this killing field, but the air conditioner is like
Jack Daniels with Coke in the evenings, on a porch,
letting the air slide across the fields, a porch
like the one I see now, my barefoot and kind uncle
sleeping off the life of sharecroppers’ sons, the wealth
of white sand caking around their ankles spotted
with rain, and I know the justice of these fields.
the way corn raises its throat to a God who went
somewhere and sat down to rest his nerves.
 

 
A Backstory for “The Wire”—Requiem for the Coupe De Ville
 
 
If I can borrow that lament for a guitar and say
you took a fine time to leave me, B.B. King
won’t mind that I ache that way when I see
what time has done to the cruiser that took men
away from the tightness of life in mills, on docks,
to let them roll around the block in luxury
and power, let them command the windows
with buttons and cool their own air when air
in houses had no choice, what they have done
to the long way a Cadillac took a corner, the hood
emblem like the prow of a ship parting the asphalt
to announce the kingly way we owned pavements
and alleys before the sheets of plywood covered
doorways where mothers sat with hair grease
and plaited their daughters’ hair on Saturdays,
before the blank empty nothings grew in spaces
where our homes once stood, the absence now
the rubble, what time has done to the rubber mats
we brushed and scrubbed with Comet, details
summed up in what car washing has come to be,
detailing—an age where the engine and the wires
are an internet, and the steady hum of V8’s comes
under the list of options in memories of big cars,
the rolling thrones of men who announced twelve
hour shifts, missing limbs, sweat and sweet
potatoes lying upside one another as if to make
an act of love in the plate, food they paid for
in jobs that proved the miracle of a black faith
in payment for believing in what would not
believe in them, the hard windows that planned
their lives the way men washed these cars, these
prizes for getting up inside a day that wanted
to knock them down and make them beg to live.
 
 

A Playwright’s Breakfast at Big Nick’s
 
 
It is thick here, the rise and fall of sidewalks,
fruit lounging in the space where we walk,
apples, oranges, melons, bananas, lights
from Christmas marking spots where clerks
gaze over the piles to catch hands slipping food
into pockets in one smooth swipe, and the moon
the accomplice, lending a shadow where no one
expects the moon to come to the aid of thieves.
 
Once friends made me laugh at the word
jur-is-dic-tion—sliding it until it slipped, pulling
it like a banana to be elongated until it is squishy,
and the other word we mined with word games—
e-lon-gat-ed--wondering why the n_g space had to be
separated—why the gate had to have its hinge taken
away, the “e” pushed to the “d” to finish things
in the thin elegance of length, like the trains
turning into streams of sucking air beneath us.
 
We go back into the sound of the bellowing
made when dumpsters are filled with the junk
of taking apart lives inside these old apartments
on the west side, gutted is the word, as if guts
can walk the space from old New York to this,
as if the oldness was greatness, and who is to say
it was not Rose McClendon teaching a young
Ruby Dee the blessing of what it is for actors to eat
when nothing happens, the stage dull and dumb.
 
A sign in front of me says –absolutely no laptops—
so I use the phone that does laptop work but fits itself
into my hand, a prompter’s box, heavy and squat.
There is that word, squat.  Squat will not be squished
into.   Only words waiting to jump into a life
are fit for scripts.  Only breath keeps a city alive.
 


Photo by Lynda Koolish