Wednesday’s Words to Ponder… Phillis Wheatley

This post is dedicated to Hamba Kahle* uMama Agnes “Aunty Aggie” Msimang. Rest peacefully dear Aunty Aggie.   https://afzalmoolla.wordpress.com/2018/10/19/hamba-kahle-umama-agnes-aunty-aggie-msimang/comment-page-1/#comment-12598

 

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”  –  William Wilberforce 

 

Phillis Wheatly

PHILLIS WHEATLEY – 

 

On Imagination

 

Thy various works, imperial queen, we see,

How bright their forms! How deck’d with pomp

By thee!

Thy wond’rous acts in beauteous order stand,

And all attest how potent is thine hand.

From Helicon’s refulgent heights attend,

Ye sacred choir and my attempts befriend:

To tell her glories with a faithful tongue,

Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song.

Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,

Till some lov’d object strikes her wand’ring eyes

Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,

And soft captivity involves the mind.

Imagination! Who can sing thy force?

Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?

Soaring through air to find the bright abode,

Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,

We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,

And leave the rolling universe behind:

From star to star the mental optics rove,

Measure the skies, and range the realms above.

There in one view, we grasp the mighty whole,

Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.

Though winter frowns to Fancy’s raptur’d eyes

The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise;

The frozen deeps may break their iron bands,

And bid their waters murmur o’er the sands.

Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign,

And with her flow’ry riches deck the plain;

Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round,

And all the forest may with leaves be crown’d:

Show’rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose,

And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose.

Such is thy pow’r, nor are thine orders vain,

O thou the leader of the mental train:

In full perfection, all thy works are wrought,

And thine the scepter o’er the realms of thought.

Before thy throne the subject-passions bow,

Of subject-passions sov’reign ruler thou;

At thy command joy rushes on the heart,

And through the glowing veins the spirits dart.

Fancy might now her silken pinions try

To rise from earth, and sweep th’ expanse on high:

From Tithon’s bed now might Aurora rise,

Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies,

While a pure stream of light o’erflows the skies.

The monarch of the day I might behold,

And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold,

But I reluctant leave the pleasing views,

Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse;

Winter austere forbids me to aspire

And northern tempests damp the rising fire;

They chill the tides of Fancy’s flowing sea,

Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay.

                                                                             –

Born in the Gambia and sold as a slave at age seven, Phillis Wheatley was the first published African-American woman. Her writing was one which helped create the African-American genre of literature. Purchased by the Wheatley family, she was taught to read and write. Furthermore, they encouraged her poetry.

Her first collection of poems was published in 1773. With her subjects of Morality and Religion, she became well know and was praised by prominent figures including George Washington and fellow African-American poet, Jupiter Hammon. She toured England and was emancipated by her owners after her poetic success. In March 1776, she appeared before General George Washington. A strong supporter of independence is reflected in her poetry and in plays, she wrote during the Revolutionary War.

Miss Wheatley married a free black grocer, John Peters, and bore him two children who died in infancy. Mr. Peters abandoned her leaving her penniless and pregnant. In an effort to support herself, she completed the second volume of poems. Alas, she could not find a publisher who was interested.

She died of complications in childbirth at the age of 31. The child died shortly afterward. She had been living in poverty in a boarding house.

Miss Wheatley wrote “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” in honor of George III repealing the Stamp Act. During the American Revolution, her sympathies and her work turned to the view of the colonists.

Phillis Wheatley’s grave lies unmarked. Few of her poems refer to slavery.

At that time, for the most part, white Americans thought it unlikely that a woman from Africa, and a former slave, could write poetry and Miss Wheatley was forced to defend herself in court in 1772. The men assembled to judge her included John Hancock, John Erving, Reverend Charles Chauncey, Thomas Hutchinson,  the governor of Massachusettes, and his lieutenant governor, Andrew Oliver. She was adjudged to be the author of the works ascribed to her and the resulting attestation was published and included in the preface to her book. Due to the prejudice of American publishers, the book was published in London with the aid of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and the Earl of Dartmouth.

Miss Wheatley’s works are credited with helping to found African-American literature.

The highly regarded poet, Jupiter Hammon wrote an ode to Miss Wheatley in 1778.

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

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Elegy (1996)

Dark Matter

Originally written in 1996.

These days they build
new doors out of balsa,
nearly out of butter, hollowcored, empty;
we are losing the thrill of opening doors.

No longer do we wish or try to push hard.
The clunk of brass latches falling into place is fading from memory.
We are forgetting the comfort that bubbled within us
once resistance was overcome.

We have disembodied ourselves.
Already unable to remain entranced
with the sounds of our lovers for long,
the day may be coming when each of us

will fail to recognize a brother, a sister;
soon, we may no longer know
anything our senses tell us.
The question rings out:

how can we sleep knowing
in the soles of our feet,
in the ledges of our ears,
that we are feeling less each day?

How can we sleep knowing
that all what of we move through daily
without giving it  attention
is…

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The Peonies

Thank you again Tony. Your work never fails to inspire me. 

Dark Matter

Originally written in 1999.

In the year I turned thirty nine
the peonies did not die
quite the same way
as the peonies always had before 

In the year I was thirty-eight
the fragile man I was then
looked at the peonies
in the backyard

The progress of the year 
seemed so fast 
I thought about how quickly
those pink and white heads

would droop and drop their petals
fade and decay
I feared that if the year of thirty-eight 
continued this pace into

my years of forty forty-one forty-two and beyond
every thing I had learned
by putting myself together 
would come undone

But then in the year
I was thirty nine
I learned that in remembering
the scent of peony

the heat of their pink
the regal ice of their white
in all these memories
there was enough of youth to make

my mortality irrelevant
I learned that thirty nine was an opening and not
an end…

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I See With My Heart

Part-Time Poet

I see a saucer of milk
skimming the treetops,
I see over a dozen twin droplets
shaken from a pair of whiskers
and my heart
stops.

I see the icicle stars
diamanté paw prints
padding across the whole sky,
I see a half-smile
soon to be a grin
and I swear I see the moon slumping
heaving a contented sigh.

I see with my heart
as well as my eyes,
maybe that’s why
tonight of all nights
the earth seems so very
alive,

if only my tongue were long enough
to drink every last sight up,
and if only I were tall enough
to reach out and give the world
a hug.

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Three poems by Gaia Holmes — And Other Poems

Feckless Sometimes it makes him angry, this dying, and I keep doing things wrong, forget to soften the stars with almond milk before I bring them to his bedside on a saucer, buy the wrong kind of green tea, the wrong kind of holy water from the village shop. He says there are […]

via Three poems by Gaia Holmes — And Other Poems

Ville Folle / Crazytown

“America will not be destroyed by undocumented workers, same-sex marriage, Muslims, atheists or abortion but rather by unreasonable fears, uncontrolled hatred, divisive politics, unethical politicians, deliberate misinformation and a gullible population.” – Laura C. Keeling

“True Americanism is opposed utterly to any political divisions resting on race and religion.” – Henry Cabot Lodge

“A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Ville folle / Crazytown

 

How does one

Teach responsibility

To a child

When those sworn officials

Selected, to serve and protect

When those entrusted

To govern the land

Accept no responsibility

pointing at others, for their crimes

For their actions

For their words

Inciting death, destruction

Divisive tactics, misogyny – Nth degree 

Machiavellian inspired

Their only defense is offense

Harm to the masses

On their backs, spill their blood

Ripping families apart,

Infants torn from the breast

Caging children, more than

That pound of flesh

Innocence is stolen

Predatory ICE – presidential mandate

For a land that claims to be free

Free from responsibility

To women, men

To all the most vulnerable,

The air we breathe, the water we drink,

Food you try to consume,

Our oceans thick with toxic, plastic carcasses

Yes, there is one, condemns us to perish

With maniacal grin and predatory leer

The oath of one without conscience

As meaningless as those who

Stand with him, without conscience

Serving only themselves

Spewing propaganda from

Forked tongues, turning

Neighbor from neighbor

Man from woman

Brother from brother

Race from race

Ally bridges burning

Fractured States of Hate

Nothing here united

While the masses

Shock and awe mode

Standby waiting for change

Helplessness learned

Waiting for a hero, if you want one,

You must be one

Bisous,

Léa

After The Orgy Of His Ending — Dark Matter

he was laid out like a meal on a picnic table. How swiftly he was torn and butchered! If you lay a feast before some folks they settle right in and devour it. I’m certain he was spoiled, spoiled early, spoiled rotten; I never could have thought to drag a tooth over him. Seeing him picked […]

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