Elizabeth Catlett, Cartas, 1986, lithograph, Hickory Museum of Art Collection, Museum purchase in part funded by the Hickory Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., 2013.9
A SPECIAL FEAR
after an exhibit of the work of Elizabeth Catlett
“…in this drear day when human brotherhood is mockery and a snare.”–W.E.B. DuBois
The enemy snickers, hand over mouth;
offers the wrong change;
spies in convex mirrors;
The enemy has ceased measuring sand in skulls,
assumed a sleek veneer,
but it haunts us still.
And so I hug a special fear for my loved ones.
My loved ones are strumming guitars,
thrilling at a kiss,
learning to read,
nursing an infant,
Here is a tearfil
Miss Ceilie with her Africa letters.
Yet I mull a special fear.
I see them hauled aloft by nooses,
dying on wet ground,
marching as to war,
denied the valley for the rocky heights,
about to be stepped on, pissed on,
drowned in sacks,
attacked by dogs,
the target of fibs,
victims of a million slights,
(Nightmares smite me hip and thigh.
coil around my pillow.
Bearden nudges me in the ribs.
Jamieson crooks an elegant index.)
Canvases pile up like Paris cobblestones,
marching as to war.
Back alley, black alley.
I want my fine black lines sure as Picasso’s,
sure as cricket legs bowing like violins.
My shadows must be perfect, subtle
as the shadows at the bottom of sparrow tracks
in the snow.
Perhaps I carry water in a basket–
still I have a special fear.
I frame it,
I send it out.