Langston Hughes’s Grandma Mary Writes a Love Letter to Lewis Leary Years after He Dies Fighting at Harper’s Ferry by Erica Dawson

Back from 2011, appearing on Blackbird. 

There is so much to love in this poem. How Dawson creates its voice and persona. How she builds narrative, setting, and tone through hints and telling details rather than exposition (she excels at this in all of her work). How she begins with an all-but-inconsequential pondering of the sounds of language–a casual, playful, unselfconscious remark that you just don’t expect to find in a poem. How she closes with a devastating metaphor that brings you (along with the speaker) down to your knees (and with a nod to Whitman, as well). How she does this:

Damn all Octobers, sin,
Forgiveness. Dam the streams until
Oceans of buried brothers spill
Like grief beneath the skin

Of rivers. […]

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