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The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature > Poet Laureate Projects > Poetry for the Mind's Joy > Winning Poem: Pale Grace and Ashes
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This poem was submitted for the "Poetry for the Mind's Joy" project and is reproduced here with permission from the author. All rights reserved. Poetry for the Mind's Joy is Poet Laureate Kay Ryan's project that includes a community college poetry contest administered by the Community College Humanities Association and a lively videoconference.

The sweet smell of the cusp-of-autumn breeze
wafts  through the open window
of my small kitchen.
My thoughts concern
technological turmoil--

My transmission is shot.
Pay the phone bill.

Then suddenly, from the distant choirs
of gliding birds,
rhythms of distant lands break
the monotony.

I find myself behind a well-worn steering wheel,
driving closer to the sounds of my secret passion...
my inner symphony.

There they are!
My ancient family
wrapped in the colors of nature,
moving like liquid gazelles against
a backdrop of the crystal lake.


I hear rhythms of mahogany hands,
like zebra's hooves pounding the open plain.
The poetry of Kente men and women dancing
across grass--
the dance I longed to do before my birth.


Thousands upon thousands of years collide
into this new day.

Chunanga, they say,

over and over,
while I am transported from ripped bucket-seats
to my real self
by the sounds of zebras.

Orange County Community College, Middletown, NY
Faculty Contact: Donald Parker