Poems by Christina Lilian Turczyn: “What I Saw”

Copyright Christina L. Turczyn 2016

What I Saw—A Persona Poem

(In response to a Burial Mask before 1960-Ibo People of Nigeria)

What I saw presses against my memory—thin cell between life and death,not wider than hope, but essential to hunger. I remember wars and their aftermath, trees and their droughts. I recall the hissing sound the rain made in the leaves on hot days, the way it fell into your hands, like grief…

I recall your face, the way your eyes knew currents, the way their shadows dissolved in fractured light when my words skipped stones across your pain. I still think about our lost daughter, who crossed the threshold of sleep and closed the door behind her.I recall music: Leaves of night opening to dream. I recall wounds—stories silently unraveling, grass-tips moving in quiet currents, intuiting wind.

I wrote. I sang from the well of home, carried in the innermost words.I sang from where I had been torn, and from where I learned to laugh. I was proud.I heard centuries gathering in layers of rock. Stones of recollection. Stones of language buried by false history. Stones that made white water scream.I lived, an artist—I carved. Wood became speech in my hands, as my palms moved over ribs of time. Love was like that, moving before it understood, moving like water beneath the skin’s breathing lake. My eyes were always open.

–First published in Reading Objects, The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, 2008

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