Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Radio Mali American Gothic Blues

Yesterday was a sad day for art lovers the world over, seeing the passing of both Gordon Parks (photographer, filmaker) and Ali Farka Toure (musician). Being a poet, I dealt with my sadness by writing a poem. I was in a villanelle flavored groove, so that's what came out:

RADIO MALI AMERICAN GOTHIC BLUES
(For Gordon Parks and Ali Farka Touré)

Tell me once again, how the learning tree grows,
Do its roots burrow all the way to Timbuktu,
If its leaves shade both lensmen and griots?

Malcolm X in his fury, “The Greatest” in repose,
Even Beggars in Paris your eye did not refuse.
Tell me once again how the learning tree grows.

The source of the Sahara was a river you composed,
In the heart of the moon flows a branch of brilliant blues.
Do its leaves shade both lensmen and griots?

Now your limbs sag, with the weight of many snows,
Still your shutter sings on with moonlight as its muse,
Tell me once again how the learning tree grows.

Baobab, your gray bark nurtures poetry and prose.
Niafunké was wailing when your falling broke the news.
Do your leaves shade both lensmen and griots?

Black and shining are the feathers of a thousand crows
Who alight and fill the sky with their darkening news.
They show us where the roots of the learning tree go,
If its leaves shade both lensmen and griots.


Notes

The word 'griot' is a rhyme word in this poem and is pronounced "GREE-o." American Gothic the photograph will probably be Gordon Parks most long lasting visual legacy. 'The Learning Tree' was Parks first Hollywood film. 'Radio Mali', 'The Source', and 'In the Heart of the Moon' are CD titles by Toure, Niafunke is the name of both a song and his home village in Mali.
Post a Comment