THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
BOOK OF THE WEEK: HOW GOD ENDS US, by DéLana R. A. Dameron
I was introduced to DeLana Dameron's work three years ago when Lenard Moore included her in his gathering of the Carolina African American Writers Collective poets. Later, he sent me a small folder/chapbook of her "Poems for Palestine," which impressed me with its empathy and courage. I re-discovered DeLana on the redroom.com site, where she has a blog, and have been following her blogspot.com posts for several weeks now. Her new book of poetry, How God Ends Us, is just out from the University of South Carolina Press. She's been giving readings in North Carolina, where she went to school (UNC-CH), although she now resides in New York City. Maybe we can entice her into coming back south? I hope so.
PHOTO CREDIT (author photo) Rachel Eliza Griffiths
COVER ART CREDIT Alexandra Cespedes
How God Ends Us DéLana R. A. Dameron Foreword by Elizabeth Alexander Poetic conversations with a God whose omnipotence brings both peace and uncertainty University of South Carolina Press www.sc.edu/uscpress 6 x 9, 96 pages paper, $14.95t ISBN 978-1-57003-832-7
DéLana R. A. Dameron holds a B.A. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has a strong interest in the intersections of history and literature. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, 42opus, storySouth, Pembroke Magazine, and Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. She has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and Soul Mountain and is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective.
All Hallows’ Eve
Bodies move suspecting nothing. A child pours herself into her Halloween costume—a dead virgin with blood-painted face—and goes door-to-door knocking. I never wanted to celebrate the dead
this way. Mama, in her South Carolina room, hears the oxygen tube slip from your nose and sees your eyes turn from her. I call to see how you are doing. Mama picks up and puts down the phone. The children on our separate streets must skip in their costumes, collect candy in the name of the gory dead.
You are as I last saw you: in the chair, oxygen expanding your chest. Your imagined whisper to my mother, her hand with olive oil to your forehead. A disconnected phone in my hand. I’d think it tragic to call home at the time of your death, except it’s not. I’d think it bad luck you should die, like my grandfather, in my mother’s arms. Except, I know we cannot prepare for it. We cannot count down to the moment of our departure.
The children rap at my door in death suits, skeletal costumes. Spirits and demons walk out into the night with its raucous possibilities. I am inside. You are no longer inside, but traveling: this flying I’m scared to do, this dying I fear.
We move on this way, propelling ourselves into our fears. Frozen on my bed, I say Children stop this death parade, Mama use your hands, Daddy, answer the phone. But my gut says you are gone. You are never coming back. At midnight, the children stop their rapturous inquiries. My father calls in tears, crying this song I do not wish to know.
Oh, how You end us. The beginning of disaster is the moist inside of a lie. How You speak with fiery tongue, with smoke words. How You hide spirits in the spaces of the house no one inhabits. There are other silences You keep.
There are other silences You keep about the way You will end us or send spirits in the spaces of the house no one inhabits. The beginning of disaster. Your fiery tongue speak. Words fly up in smoke, curl inside out to reveal the moist parts of a lie.
Inside the tender part – the stomach of a lie – are other kept silences. How you twirl Your fiery tongue. Your words are smoke. But, how You’ll end us, summon spirits from inhabitable spaces to whisper the beginnings of disaster.
Curled in the beginning of disaster, deep inside the moist, tender parts are words fired from Your tongue. All smoke. Cull the spirits from the dark spaces of the house. Cull them from the silences we keep. God. The end of us.
You’ll soon end us. It will be the beginning of a disaster. Speak now with Your tongue of fire and smoke words. Unearth the underbelly of all lies. Inside the silences You keep are spirits in the spaces of the house
where no one dwells, in the crevices where You’ll surely end us – here, in the silences of the house, the silences kept. It will be the beginning and the end. Disaster is the tender, moist center of every lie. Still, Your tongue is fire. Our words, mere smoke.
Ad in the Chicago Defender after Rose Piper’s “Slow Down Freight Train”
broad shouldered negro seeks work up north. robust hands good for ferrying heavy loads across long distances. legs trained to walk forty years in southern wilderness. never worked in the industry but willing to learn. can keep long hours slaving under intense sun. no stranger to labor or low wages however there is word your low is my promise. don’t need much room. just a corner of a corner to rest my eyes. will not be distracted by women or necessity of the loins. will travel solo. respond soon. will board the next north-bound train.
Consider This after Rose Piper’s “Slow Down Freight Train”
If windy nights in that blustering city
are unbearable and you find work is not worth walking solo;
if you need the surety of relentless kudzu
spreading miles along country highways
and my musk scent has lifted from my lace
you took because you need
to remember why you’re there;
if the salt-cured ham glazed with honey is no longer
my sweet sweat on your tongue and your fingertips
forget journeys along my forever hips;
if you can find someone to stew you neck bones and
when after a search for every remnant of flesh your lips
covet the straight lines of my neck
then, come back. Come back home.
Heartland of Columbia Nursing Home
After the operation, doctors said her heart was retiring, would not send blood down the right leg.
There was no other option.
When we visited the nursing home, I pushed the button to raise her head
toward the bent straw leaning over the cup’s lip. She asked for other favors: one more pillow
to the pile, a louder radio to hear God’s word, a yellow salty cornstarch snack in her mouth
to dissolve on her tongue, my fingernails along her right calf.
I was confused. I moved to pat her left, blanketed foot. I was seven and did not know the itch of absence.
There is a dead mother and a living daughter and the ritual of washing hair. I was too young to think anything heroic about her heavy head in your hands before the funeral. What an intimate farewell: you waiting at the house of a friend, the funeral home – agreeing to your request – delivers great-grandma Georgia so that yours could be the last touch. How you moved your fingernails between her wet follicles, shielded her eyes, careful not to splash shampoo because you remember being chided about the burn. You denied the embalmer’s offer to dress her; denied her their orange lipstick, but gave her the best dress and a heel – having been a while since she could walk after diabetes snatched half a leg. This intimate farewell: you rubbing her down in baby oil, whispering Mama, singing her those thousand hymns every ready in your mouth.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.