John Warner Smith

Talking Book

The pages of my book can part
like the sea. Their words move
my frost-bitten hands
like heat from a burning log
splintering to the pace
of my panting breaths.
Don’t tell me to forget
the past you bury
with my dead, and embrace
this chattel hell, the price
you put on a looking-glass.
Why must I feed your fat heart
and sundown shadow creeping
a labyrinth of cotton blossoms
caging my humanity?
On this starless listening night,
I hear chants and drums
beneath my scorched earth.
I see ember kindling ashes
deep as the well of blood
you make and forsake. Here,
inside my hardened palms—
this is my past,
these are my dead.
Tonight, I’ll tell my stories,
let them lift
the white-capped waves
like wind-blown snow
threshing your fertile fields.
Let water top your hills,
and the cage you build
be your own.  Let my book talk.