Monday, April 23, 2018

Wade in the Water

Wade in the Water: Poems by Tracey Smith, 96 pages, 
The newest book of poetry from the wonderful writer, poet, Pulitzer-prize winner, and current Poet-Laureate of the United States. Smith focuses on the very modern issues faced by immigrants to and by people of color in this country in such pieces as this excellent poem, "The United States Welcome You,"
Why and by whose power were you sent?
What do you see that you may wish to steal?
Why this dancing? Why do your dark bodies
Drink up all the light? What are you demanding
That we feel? Have you stolen something? Then
What is that leaping in your chest? What is
The nature of your mission? Do you seek
To offer a confession? Have you anything to do
With others brought by us to harm? Then
Why are you afraid? And why do you invade
Our night, hands raised, eyes wide, mute
As ghosts? Is there something you wish to confess?
Is this some enigmatic type of test? What if we
Fail? How and to whom do we address our appeal?

Smith ties these issues to our past. The song "Wade in the Water," a spiritual by (come on Wikipedia) John Wesley Work and Frederick J Work, had its roots in the underground railroad. The collection of letter-poems, "I Will Tell You the Truth about This, I Will Tell You All about It" addressed to Lincoln, to children, to family members, and to unnamed officials recount the suffering of those deep in the Civil War and in the chaos around its edges. Stunningly good poems.

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