Last night, Sekou Sundiata said it was
an honor to be an artist at this time.
He talked about the imagination, and its power.
Things could be different, if we could imagine them so.
I can’t remember his exact words and I’m wanting
to hear more powerful words than the ones
I’ve been hearing on the street, on the radio, in the classroom.
I turn on the TV, flip past tanks, smoke, sand, helmets,
balding, gray-haired white men with mouths moving.
I blink at maps with no words, dots, and
magic lines that multiply to show routes
from one place to another. I can’t imag ine these places.
I can’t imagine these places because of my ignorance.
I’ve never been to the part of the world
someone lazily named “the Middle East,”
and I live in a land where many believe
it’s not important for me to ever imagine anything;
a place where far too many people have forgotten
that they have an imagination.
I can feel how far away I am from things that
might be important for me to imagine.
This frustrates me and makes me look for poetry;
sends me off to write instead of dust,
worry, or stand still in the muck.
Instead of thinking about whether any of us
have a future and what kind of future we have;
with coral reefs dying, ancestors’ graves
being pushed to the surface, the polar ice cap melting,
and yet another country leveled—I wonder about culture.
Is it diminished every time people, gov ernments,
land, and monetary systems are thrown into upheaval?
Are the drums, songs, poems, dances, rituals, prayers,
dreams, wishes, and stories losing their power?
Maybe what I’m really asking is
whether enough of us will turn from hollow words
and images to something that will
Maybe what I really want to know is
will dancing, writing, and reading poems,
—Joyce E. Young ›