Looking Back

As I sat on the C train headed uptown to a meeting, I was thinking about Samuel, thinking about today’s Poetic Asides prompt, which is to write a looking back poem. As soon as I saw that prompt, I thought of Samuel, and that I needed to write a Samuel poem today. For those who don’t know — which should surely be just about everyone, Samuel is my great grandfather, my mother’s father’s father. Just over a year ago, I was in Cincinnati in the genealogy research library at the Underground Railroad Museum when I found Samuel and a slew of other relatives. Samuel resonated with me in a way I would can’t explain and would not have believed possible. Finding him has inspired a research project and story cycle that I’m beginning to find my way through. And last April I wrote a number of poems about Samuel and the fact of finding him and what that felt like.

So I was sitting on the C train, I looked up and saw a young woman standing in front of me, clutching a book against her chest. The back of the book was facing me, and the first thing I saw was, ” Discovering your true self through the power of your ancestors.” Right. A looking back poem. Of course.

Sankofa

Samuel is carrying me. Through his history, my imagination, my dreams. Slowly and more slowly, shining his light so I may see. I am reaching back, and reaching back, and reaching back. Samuel, my Virgil, translating sign posts, never losing sight of the way home. Whatever I am hoping to find, it cannot be greater than this, than the resonance of Samuel, the void he has blossomed to fill. I let him carry me, let him choose the path. All he asks is that I stay awake, that I watch and listen, that I remember.


As I did last year, I’ll be following along with the Poem-A-Day challenge at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog. Today’s prompt is to write a “looking back” poem. You can post your daily poems on Brewer’s page. The top poem from each day will be included in an anthology later this year!

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Are you writing poems this month? Where can I see them?
Let’s share this craziness!

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