by A. Van Jordan
after Lynda Hull
The day of the spell was the day of cast shadows,
of diaphanous figures whipped clean of fear,
angels ablaze sailing a coastline of hushed tête-à-têtes,
adagio tenor wails laced with rage, smoke rising
from the wails, from the laughter; just when
the last local trains crawled into stations;
just when televisions grew verdigris in homes, obsolete
from indolence; just when black signatories erased
their names and put on their boots, cirrus streaks formed
on the skyline of the city. A mother held her
barely alive son, the son to whom she vowed
protection from harm. Having thrown a circle
of goofer dust to enclose her enemies, she raises
a totem over her head. It’s now time: Let her wield
the words of black declensions, new vowels,
the best nouns of home training, of damn good sense.
Let her sit for a spell, wipe sleep from her eye.
Let her obtain a license for what’s lethal
from whatever God has taken her image,
whenever the sun comes over the buildings,
whenever the moon weighs more than the sun,
more than Pisces and Neptune. Walk to
a street corner with plenty of witnesses,
where you’ll bear no isolation,
sing your words facing North or even higher.
Now, walk backward through the chains
of time from each past and current hindrance
to our future. Invoke the names of those
not ceding privilege in boardrooms, the ones who oppress
to their graves. Now summon each forgotten spirit,
each fallen son. Bless each prayed-up grandmother,
each open door and vivid corridor. Bless the pains
spared you, vicarious to you, passed down in your blood,
carrying you through the dangers and the echoes of time.
Remember: family echoes within your body; history
pulls through you as you move through a day.
Raise them in this… prayer, let’s call it,
to that God who took your image.
Go to the tree, to the home, to the street corner,
and spread these words–tossing wreaths,
spinning incantations–where torn
life collapsed under a last breath.
Poem copyright 2022 by A. Van Jordan. All rights reserved.
See two more poems from A. Van Jordan debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “Fragments of Tamir’s Body,” and “Bored, Tamir Chooses to Dream”
Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt