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The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature > Poet Laureate Projects > Poetry for the Mind's Joy > Winning Poem: Window Lantern For Rocco
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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 furrow in his brow, the
rolled muscle in his cleft, the unkempt
locks of beard shroud
his warmed eyes, spiced with crimson skin,
reservoirs of sweat pool
along ridges curled across his face,
rain upon faded, thinning boots,
tipped to toes and raised off of swollen heels, tender under heavy
fists that plunge against straining strings,
ringing the songs of slaves’ sons
and daughters in tandem with his silver tongue and
bleeding soul beaten blue-black by
the sharpened stones, wedged in the soil, pressing
through his soles into his feet
as each step impressed upon his truth,
bled him pure, provoking him to
cry the lowly ache of blues.
His song evokes memories of past lives
…Trembling, crowded in sticky air, under high grasses of
rice and bullets—
…Bent, broken backs under a cruel sun, over
thorny cotton weeds—
…Tired, worn and short-lived among
black-lunged canaries—
…Hidden, hungry specters forgotten in the twang of
foothills and mountain haunts—
—His embodiment lures dawn to each present horizon.
His labored breath and shuffle awaken the thirst within us all
to feel the wind again to
touch the numb skin of our scars
to lay down our arms and raise our eyes
in sight of Gilead.
His moans shift our pace
in time, in cadence against our chains.
His feral call pierces our darkness,
calls out our latent freedom from unlocked
yet gripped-closed cages.
Tipping out upon swollen heels, out and up upon:
<< Sing low, sweet champion! >>
<< Sing from the deep, Sweet Moses, >>
Calling out: the flight of wings into
the healing light of day.

Delaware County Community College, Media, PA
Faculty Contact: Stacy Cartledge