Posted by: Viola | July 16, 2010

Letter to a Poem

June 2, 2010

Dear Calabash Poem: For a two years now, I have imagined myself to be a poet. You are the poem that makes me a poet. You are the poem that makes this choice real. I want to believe that I am a poet now. That I am on my way to doing what I am supposed to do, thanks to you.

You are the poem that the faculty chose. You are the poem that made it to the Library of Congress. You made it to Kay Ryan’s desk, and I am sure she saw you. I imagine that you met the Poet Laureate of the USA. You made it! I am dying to know: Where else will you go? If you ask me, I will say that you have already gone far.

You are being read by so many people. You are telling them a bit about Africa, Africa as seen by me. Africa as loved by me. I can see this love move. I can see it journey to places I might never see in my lifetime. You are doing, on your own, the thing I most want to do: Tell people about Africa, the rich and beautiful. Tell people about Africa, the place that can be lost. The Africa that can be taken away. The Africa I long to preserve. The Africa I want to keep going back to.

You are the poem that takes me there. You are a raft. My dreams are hitched to you. But you are so much more. The words you pulled from me, the hopeful emotions you call out to in others, these form my plot of land and my first farm. I can stand in you. Perhaps, one day I can grow some food on you. Even a poet has to eat. But poor as I am now, I tell you this:

How you sustain me! You are a poem about anger and bitterness. You gave me a chance to turn my rage into something sweet. I can breathe, now that my chest is free. A space opens in my heart when I read you. Thank you for lightening my load. Time takes us where it will, but we have a choice. We don’t have to take our anger with us wherever we go. You are a beautiful mother at whose feet I place my distress. I sleep peacefully in you, but you urge me to walk on in my stillness. And because poetry is a precious gift, you caution me: Careful as you carry this.

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