Poems of Luke: The Sun Whispers, Wait

When I opened The Sun Whispers, Wait, a collection of poems from Luke, aka Joseph A Brown, I was glad that I read the introduction and discovered that October 18th is a significant day: Luke, the Evangelist, is honored within the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, and it also happens to be the birthday of Luke’s father–not the apostle but the author of these poems. So I thought what a beautiful thing to share my favorite Luke poems on a day that means a lot to him not just as a son but as a poet and Jesuit priest.

I was drawn to the first section of the collection, especially the first poem: “Lord Knows,” which brought to my mind my own father’s story of how he went to school. My father was in primary seven when his mother untied the thongs of her long skirt to reveal two cents hidden beneath her garments. “This is all I have left to educate you,” she said, and placed the cents in my father’s hands. “You’re on your own from now on.” My father took the cents to the principal, and also negotiated a deal: he would work in the school gardens to make up for school fees. That’s how Dad made for himself a road, just like the poem says.

LORD KNOWS

lord knows honey

she said folding her hands

into the flowers of her apron

you got to make your

own road

                  sometime

it was her wisdom

so i waited

 

coming and going

aint gonna do

when you get to be

old like me     just

going

           aint it like

some folks    to jump

on their own backs

stead of using the road

to get somewhere   fools

is fools   but you aint never been

one you hear

                    sure gonna be hard

on your mama though

but she’ll do all right

                                 now

before you go i wants to give you

a little something

                              to help out

and i still have it

and the dollar bill

she unfolded slowly and put

into my hand

AT THE EDGE reminds me of some of the couples I’ve known, who have been close in life that they even resemble when you look at them. Years down the road, one of them begins to lose strength and the other has to watch in fear and trepidation what might happen next, sure that death is coming, but also denying it’s presence, and carrying on like a strong soldier, wishing and hoping that life and peace will last, no matter what the afflictions.

AT THE EDGE

my mother loses breath and nerve

as she watches my father resist all

aid and ease for death

                                      his life is

devoured in larger doses daily with-

out the rescue

                        of imagination he is

letting go of sound and wit and

serenity

               believing it to be a game

of interference he will not narcotize

his pain and it spills

                                 onto us all

restless    angry   impotent and vain to

dream what will never be    he pushes

us

     to dwell at the edge of a dwindling

fire   a draining river    and stare

her bewildered hands scream out and

grab her children

                            she would marry

him and bear his sons    she will

grieve when he is gone

                                      but she cannot

rest   hearing him now unable to replace

pain with peace

                           and she does not now

how to scold him to go to sleep for fear

that he would at last obey

STORIES ABOUT CHRONE is a magnificent poem in five sections. It chronicles the story of Chrone, whose boy ran away and got killed, and Chrone hasn’t been the same since. Folks gossip about him; how crazy he is, how he’s buried some money but won’t remember where he hid it, probably saving it for his son who he won’t admit has been dead for years. He believes he will return some day. How sad can that be? The whole poem is like a bluesy song. Consider this third section:

i wonder why he wears a

wool sweater even on a hot

day

   my grandma said it’s

just that he’s old   older

than abraham

                        and daddy said

yeah   and he taught the snake

how to

         crawl

                 and been cold

ever since

With my imaginary guitar I can sing the poem to the rhythm of the blues. Eric Bibb would know best, for that’s the blues singer who comes to mind.

The poems in this collection are gentle, sweet and well crafted. They tell stories, jokes, and utilize haiku. Some are like songs in their lyrical and jazzy-bluesy nature. Others are prayers and witty questions calling for answers. Overall, the 112-paged book covers poems that demonstrate various facets of life: aging, loss, God, the spirit world, history, tragedy, and love. The collection was published in 2009 by Brown Turtle Press. The author, Luke (Joseph Brown , SJ) is the director of the Africana studies  Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. To read more of his poems, click here.

I’ll close with the second and third part of this Haiku

II

Our house stores sunlight

in baskets and sets it out

for the evening fire

III

The small drunk turtle

challenges the morning wind

to race to the pond

 

 

 

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  1. A quick look at literary blogs and news across the Diaspora | African Writers Trust - October 20, 2012

    […] own Mildred Barya continues her noteworthy series on contemporary world literature with a review of The Sun Whispers, Wait, a poetry collection by Joseph Brown, SJ, Director of the Africana studies Department. Southern […]

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