June 25, 2011

[14]

By Martha Collins, White Papers (Pittsburgh, 2012).




black keys from trees white keys locked
.
on black shoulders locked together above
.
skeleton ribs keys to 45 keyboards from one
.
tusk the word ivory rang through the air
.
one tusk + one slave to carry it bought
.
together if slave survived the long trek
.
sold for spice or sugar plantations if not
.
replaced by other slaves five Africans
.
died for each tusk 2 million for 400,000 American
.
pianos including the one my grandmother
.
played not to mention grieving villages
.
burned women children left to die the dead
.
elephants whose tusks went to Connecticut
.
where they were cut bleached and polished
.
while my grandmother played in Illinois
.
my mother played and I - there were many old
.
pianos and slaves were used till the 20th century:
.
an African slave could have carried a tusk
.
that was cut into white keys I played. starting
.
with middle C and going up and down



Our writing workshop instructor, Donna Boyle, brought in a poem to read this week that stirred up our grey matter. It stimulated a very lively discussion in class, and I was inspired to share it further. Donna and I both did the research that allowed me to put her words here with the author’s permission. Words can do anything, and with this carefully crafted gift, [14], Martha Collins, stirs up generations of emotions that we thought we had put far into the past. The poem is part of White Papers (Pittsburgh, 2012), and I am looking forward to reading the rest of Collins work.

6 comments:

  1. Too sad. I haven't bought anything made using ivory for years. I don't know what they use for piano keys these days, do you? Dianne

    ReplyDelete
  2. There's always some kind of plastic that can be used in place of ivory; I assume that's what's on the electronic pianos I see.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow that is deep. The sins of the fathers?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for sharing this -- it's incredible!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very astute and incredibly sad. You captured a great deal in a few well-chosen lines. Isn't that what great poetry is all about?

    ReplyDelete

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