Approaching word

Poems are not about anything. Their titles aren’t the subjects, usually only indicating a partial opening into the movement of language. Maybe poems indicate where we’ve been or where we’d like to go (or not go), but that’s just the outermost part. What they are deeply about is the same thing that alarm clocks are about when they go off during your dreams.

So now you know why poems are so often annoying.

Coming, going, the waterbirds
don’t leave a trace,
don’t follow a path.


Only a silly goose or chatbot would think this haiku is about watching birds fly by. I like Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s option: to be a star being rather than a human being, as in her poem titled “Star Beings” (clearly not a poem about extraterrestrials).


In late afternoon, stars are not visible.

Everything arrives energetically, at first.

I wait to see what I’ll recognize, as diffuse sky resolves into points of light and glitter.

When Venus appears, objects are just visible; silhouettes seem larger, nearer; voices are audible at a distance, though words don’t make precise sense.

Glancing to the right of Antares in medium blue, I intuit cosmic allurement.

Stars arrive non-visually, first.

I practice to see light in this process of evanescence, like an aroma.

The field of heaven, which operates outside space-time, is formed by acts of other entities, other stars, and by people who rise in the dark to look for them and place them.

When mind extends toward sky, it may take the form of a perceived star, because respect is a portal.

When your experience ardently links to an object or person where you live - husband, tree, stone - you try to hold onto the visibility of this object and its location.

Connecting with a geography of sky gives this sense of security, inspiration.

I ally with a crater on the plain, also the comet’s light.

-Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, “Star Beings” in A Treatise on Stars

Let’s join her. We must be star beings to have any hope of making things better here on the ground.

It’s Black History Month, and I’m excited about starting to read works by W.E.B. Du Bois as part of my observance and celebration.

Mural in downtown Great Barrington, Massachusetts

But art is not simply works of art; it is the spirit that knows Beauty, that has music in its soul and the color of sunsets in its headkerchiefs; that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance too.

W.E.B. Du Bois, “Dusk of Dawn: An essay toward an autobiography of a race concept”

Another thing I’m looking forward to is this: the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum’s show of infographic art made by W.E.B. Du Bois and his students at Atlanta University for a valiant exhibit at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. The exhibit used diagrams and maps to illustrate the significant achievements of Black Americans despite racism on both local and global levels.

I like finding overlaps in thinking and doing between the poets and writers working in completely different situations and times and places:

“…the worst form of bondage is the bondage of dejection, which keeps [wo]men hopelessly chained in loss of faith in themselves.”

Rabindranath Tagore, from “Nationalism in Japan”

We have artists within us and around us to keep the work going. That is the point.

W.E.B. Du Bois Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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