I am writing this on Tuesday, August 4, the birthdays of three extremely different personalities, three black men our souls would be close to impoverished without.
The poet Robert Hayden opened us to understanding love when it’s given by those whose daily lives lead them to be chronically angry. His poem “Those Winter Sundays” tells of a son’s realization that “even on Sundays” his worn-out father showed his love by shining his son’s shoes. Find the poem here. It’s one that breaks and heals the heart. Hayden taught at Fisk for 25 years, and he was the first African-American poet named Poet Laureate/Consultant to the Library of Congress.
Louis Armstrong was perhaps the most charismatic and influential jazz master. He was at first called Satchelmouth because of the way he blew high C’s on the trumpet. Satchelmouth was later shortened to Satchmo, and he was Satchmo from then on. Armstrong is considered by most the player most responsible for solo improvisation. Today it’s ironic and uplifting that he always said the favorite song he played and sang was “It’s a Wonderful World,” saying, “Seems to me it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we’re doing to it, and all I’m saying is: see what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love, baby, love. That’s the secret . . .”
And it’s was the birthday of PRESIDENT Barack Obama too. I hope you heard his dignified, articulate, insightful, beautifully cadenced and timed eulogy for John Lewis. I heard someone say that he should not have brought politics into the memorial service. Hilarious. What could be more honest and honorable to John Lewis than to speak up for what Lewis spent his life struggling for. It wasn’t inappropriate, what Obama said; it was courageous. It was “Good Trouble.” And I would add that it was love.
Three liberating, brave souls to celebrate on the same day. Oh how I hope that is uplifting to you.
Let Comfort Come
We read while form stays
still and waits. The words sing
or speak, clamber on or say
or tell or even sometimes step
aside and hope we wander in.
Everywhere within the form
of letter, word, space, structure
rests the hush around the hurry,
the opening wherein any form —
table, door, the lover’s arm
and tongue, the cat asleep
on the sill—lies the quiet,
the shawl around us all
who have to clatter through.
Let be be the nothing of not.
First published in The Colorado Review
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)
Z.G. Tomaszewski has published two new collections. KORAKIA was created with his partner, Hayley. It is a collection of poems, haiku, photographs, all arranged in a fresh design layout. The other collection is titled STONE POEMS. Each poem focuses on a different stone, revealing what is astonishing about a single stone.
Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.