Against forgetting, give water to the plant
and notice the light in a stranger’s eye
––and the shadows.
Notice the work still waiting, against
what would have you close your eyes,
surrendering time, white flag waving
for a moment before it falls like a sheet
over the sleeping body, like a sheet
over the dead.
I’d lose my head, The old women would say,
If it wasn’t attached, as if to remind us to
hold the tether to what was less securely
attached; as if to say, you’ll lose your life
if it isn’t attached, by the substance
of a series of tiny actions like clay around
the whisper-thin thread of your otherwise
Against forgetting, say to the child unsure
how to begin, Here, and hold out a hand
and keep mealtimes. Against forgetting,
extend an invitation to the table,
to those cast out, disposed of,
dispossessed. This includes the children
before you and the ones made invisible
and the ones you once were.
To say, I see you, Here
we are and remember.
To notice the little bird in the low branch,
to say its name and listen for its response
to what you have not said. To walk in
the desert, in the dark, with water and
“The bottom line is this: You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world. In some way, your aspirations and concern for a single man in fact do begin to change the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks or people look at reality, then you can change it.”
-James Baldwin, from a 1979 interview published in The New York Times
This post is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, on the monster that wants us to forget.