Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
It was a march from South Carolina
to Georgia, a coffle train in freezing weather—
but must these stories of the past sound the same?
In the future (when I am dead)
may remembrance be rendered useless.
May all poems treat the breath of flowers,
insistent loam, the wise chirping of birds.
Even now, I wish you a short walk
back to your large, sunlit home,
blessed by a lisped, empty tune,
or at least, a heroic ride by a doctor
to save you if you suffer in the night—
but Patience is the name of the slave woman
who crawled when her feet were cut off—
loved by frostbite on that long, chained march.
After, she was seized by God,
praising Him constantly—
and shouldn’t this seem foolish to me?
What on this earth did she have to anticipate?
Not a thing she could move toward on aching knees.
No one wrote down what happened
after her conversion—
and Lord, yet another tragedy.
I know she must have died (as we all will)
but a missionary’s journal only tells us
her hands were fastened on the plow of a better day.
How many of us can say the same?
I give you Patience,
a woman bolstered by improbable grace.
Take her from me
and carry her in your hands.
a place to save and call holy on a given day—
if not this one, then I pray you,