A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
For Patricia Fargnoli
Our beloved lay down and then eloped
to that other world.
Poets, musicians, chefs, bus drivers, all,
the mighty, the small, the good, the bad
and the ugly, all of them, lying down,
and in their dying, lose their need for us
and this world.
Sometimes, I wonder, are there any poetry
festivals out in the better world,
where, after the soul takes leave
of all its fragments we otherwise, call “body,”
only bones are left in the grave.
Are there recitals, musicians, bowing,
any need for long gowns,
or need to put on lipstick, arrange the hair
backwards, or flaunt your braids?
Any need to lose your high heels?
Are there any houses with flat roofs,
like the one on which the neighbors
used to party on my father’s roof
when I was a child?
Are there rooms for moms to sit and laugh
about their children weeping
over their departure, not knowing
their moms were so happy, they did not
even look back, even though they died,
wide-eyed, limp limbs, empty of all breath,
Like the way the leaf flies off, the way sun
disappears behind everything
that wasn’t already gone.
Does God take their hand, and say, my child,
forget that old, ugly world? What happened
to all those poets, gone,
those great novelists? Toni? Chinua?
What happened to Maya, Buche, Art Smith,
even Liberia’s own poet, Bai T?
What happened to Jon Tribble,
editor, friend, darling to Allison Joseph?
Is he editing a magazine still,
in that other world? Are their poetry readings,
nights of Q & A, students, listening,
and taking notes? What happened to my friend,
Patricia Fargnoli when she
arrived in the other world, her book,
Hallowed, in hand, and did God say, “Patricia,
you don’t need that book anymore. They all
know how hard you worked,
those intricate verses, your love of words,
sit here, and relax, my girl”? What happened
to those who weren’t poets,
or singers, or mothers or Dads?
Did they also find a place to sit and laugh
at the wailing we do to see them elope from us,
the runaways to death, the ones
who left without wanting to leave?
And we, standing in awe, like a traveler, lost
on a long journey.
How do we trust what we have heard when
the dead are so silent, resolute, teasing
as we stand over their bodies in awe?
Is there a room where aging mothers
watch football, write a poem,
cook palm butter, bake a cake, for one to read
a poem by a dead poet friend?
Are there rooms they lock to keep the curious
living out? What happens the first morning
they arrive, after dying?
How do we know they aren’t laughing
at us in our tears? What if my friend
was saying, “Don’t cry, Patricia, I’m glad
I read your book last year;
go on, find time to dance and laugh, and when
you’re ready, and here, we’ll do a poetry
event in this better world, this green,
flowery, peaceful world, where
we do not need our books.”
Copyright 2021 Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s many books include Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House, 2020). She is a survivor of the Liberian Civil war and currently lives in Pennsylvania.