On the occasion of the Confederate flag falling in South Carolina, July 10, 2015
It is the pearl-blue peep of day.
All night the palmetto sky
Was seized with the aurora
And alchemy of the remarkable.
A blazing canopy of newly minted
Light fluttered in while we slept.
We are not free to go on as if
Nothing happened yesterday.
Not free to cheer as if all our
Prayers have finally been answered
Today. We are free only to search
The yonder of each other’s faces,
As we pass by, tip our hat, hold a
Door ajar, asking silently,
Who are we now? Blood spilled
In battle is two-headed: horror &
Sweet revelation. Let us put the
Cannons of our eyes away forever.
Our one and only Civil War is done.
Let us tilt, rotate, strut on. If we,
The living, do not give our future
The same honor as the sacred dead,
Of then and now—we lose everything.
The gardenia air feels lighter on this
New day, guided now by iridescent
Fireflies, those atomlike creatures
Of our hot summer nights, now begging
Us to team up and search with them
For that which brightens every
Darkness. Soon, it will be just us
Again, alone, beneath the swirling
Indigo sky of South Carolina. Alone &
Working on the answer to our great
Day’s question: Who are we now?
What new human cosmos can be made
Of this tempest of tears, this upland
Of inconsolable jubilation? In all our
Lifetimes, finally, this towering
Undulating moment is here.
Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry by Nikky Finney is available now from Northwestern University Press. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Copyright © 2020.