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The Monday Poem > A Memory by Saeed Jones (9th July 2018)

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message 1: by Joan (new)

Joan When they finished burying me, what was left of me
sent up a demand like a hand blooming in the fresh dirt:

When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers.

But silence has never stopped me from praying.
Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between

the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent,
and reasons to remain? A body like the sky seeking

justice. A body like light reaching right down into the field
where you thought you could hide from me.

They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns

as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now.
But history has never stopped me from praying.


message 2: by Joan (last edited Jul 09, 2018 06:28PM) (new)

Joan About This Poem

“I’ve been writing variations on the line ‘a body like a slash of lightning’ in my notebook for at least three years now. It was just an idea I kept returning to, trying to make work. There is a rage to the idea that I found difficult to shake. It kept calling to me like a memory that refused to be forgotten.”
—Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones’s debut poetry collection, Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2015), was the winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the Stonewall Book Awards–Barbara Gittings Literature Award. His memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives, is forthcoming this year from Simon & Schuster. He lives in New York City.

I found this poem through the “Poem-a-Day” email message from Poetry.org
https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem-day


message 3: by Joan (new)

Joan “...I want a body like a slash of lightning.

...A body like the sky seeking
justice...”

I can’t explain it but I really like that interpretation of lightning.


message 4: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7686 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "When they finished burying me, what was left of me
sent up a demand like a hand blooming in the fresh dirt:

When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
If they heard me, I couldn’t he..."


I love this Joan - such strikingly vivid and fresh imagery!

I think I always respond to poems like this with a streak of defiance. :) Some of Neruda's non-love-poetry is a bit like this.

I like the hand blooming especially - such a stark image but that crossing of it with flowers strikes me as somehow wonderful, this seeing of his own actual or metaphorical death as a defiance of flowers ... a bursting forth of disruptive, disturbing beauty that refuses to be quelled or ignored.

But I love the lines most: "Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between / the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent, / and reasons to remain?"

The poem has a real energy to it, and that makes the images of electricty potent. The poem has force!

Anyway, thanks for posting this wonderful poem Joan - this poet is completely new to me!


message 5: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 12298 comments Mod
Thank you for posting this poem Joan, I was able to find such rich imagery which I always love about poetry.

I hope you don't mind but I added the date, I'm in the process of putting all the poems in a database and I find having a date in the titles helps me keep track of things.


message 6: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7686 comments Mod
Alannah wrote: "I hope you don't mind but I added the date, I'm in the process of putting all the poem..."

Thanks Alannah - that will be awesome! :)


message 7: by Joan (new)

Joan Greg, thanks for sending me back to the flower imagery.
That’s one of the advantages of discussions- other people lead me to look again.

Alannah - I like that idea of dating the poems. The Poem-A-Day feed highlights living poets during the week and renown poets on weekends. I have found it an effective way to sample the work of poets new to me.


message 8: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7686 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "Greg, thanks for sending me back to the flower imagery.
That’s one of the advantages of discussions- other people lead me to look again.

Alannah - I like that idea of dating the poems. The Poem-A-..."


Definitely Joan! I feel like I always discover something new in discussions, even with poems I've read many times before.


B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments Joan, a new poet to me but one I shall seek more of after reading this incredible poem.


message 10: by Darrick (new)

Darrick Williams | 34 comments This is a interesting poem about the many trials of life, and death.

Even with the first line, it feels as it was a hard life: When they finished burying me, what was left of me

The poet also talks about, or even expects to be reincarnated
When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning. If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers.

I also thought of how the poem speaks of praying while alive, and in death was interesting. Although the poem is talking about death, it constantly reminds you: Through it all, begging, life’s hardships, silences, and History. He never stopped praying.

I was aware of Saeed Jones, but haven’t read much of his work. Because of your post Joan, I will now seek to read more.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

My first though has me struck by the beautiful rhythm of the poem

"If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers.

But silence has never stopped me from praying"

These lines make me think the poet must be a very spiritual person, continuing to have faith and prayer despite the fact his prayers are not answered.

"They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns

as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now."

I like the comment on tradition here- why do we have certain ways of mourning which don't necessarily correspond to how the person was in life.

I like how the poet has thought about his death but there is still energy and positivity in this poem

Thanks for posting Joan


message 12: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7686 comments Mod
Heather wrote: "I like the comment on tradition here- why do we have certain ways of mourning which don't necessarily correspond to how the person was in life

I like how the poet has thought about his death but there is still energy and positivity in this poem ..."


I like both of these aspects too Heather!


message 13: by Joan (new)

Joan “...the field where you thought you could hide from me...”

left me confused - I’d like to read your thoughts on what the poet means there.


message 14: by Greg (last edited Jul 13, 2018 12:15PM) (new)

Greg | 7686 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "“...the field where you thought you could hide from me...”

left me confused - I’d like to read your thoughts on what the poet means there."


It's definitely unclear, but this is my own take:

"When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning."

He wants to come back powerful as a force for justice after death, possibly in the way MLK's memory was powerful even after his death, getting Civil Rights bills passed that would've been impossible without something to galvanize them. Or possibly this is just hyperbole, as in some Maya Angelou poems, as in even death won't stop him. In any case, the "body" of lightning here in his imagination seems to be him.

"A body like the sky seeking / justice."

Again this is justice he wants to seek.

"A body like light reaching right down into the field
where you thought you could hide from me."


This seems like the same "body" of lightning that is him after death. Whether actual death or metaphorical death, I don't know. But it seems as though he wants to seek out those who have thwarted justice and find them where they are hiding. Maybe these are the powers that be, the political and social forces that stand in the way of justice?

It feels like a 'movement' poem to me if that makes sense. Extremely topical given all the upheaval nowadays where many feel a sense of horror and injustice.

This is just my own take. I think there are a number of ways the poem can be read.


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