Commentary and Philosophy Poetry posted May 8, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
Go back and get it.


by Sis Cat

In Africa,
                  where dance began,
a bird planted her feet in green earth,
folded black wings to her body,
and balanced her egg on her back.

Instead of flight,
which would plummet her egg groundward,
she turned her red head backwards.
Her beak open,
she cradled and carried her egg forward.

People of Ghana
named this bird Sankofa:
SAN — to return, KO — to go, and FA — to fetch,

for it is not forbidden to fetch the forgotten.

Like the egg Sankofa carried
from her back with her beak,
my mother carried me first in her womb
and then on her back
until she could carry me no more.

She tried other means to ensure
that I would not be left behind
in school or in life

gifts of old books I refused to read;
I craved rocket ships instead of the past.

My mother danced at school one night. 
I slumped in my seat to hide from peers
who whistled and whooped at the woman
whose bare feet drumbeat across the stage
as feathers and fringes fluttered and flowed.

My mother embodied Sankofa.
She never forgot the cotton fields

she picked as her mother had picked.
She learned from the past
and brought the past to the present.

After my mother died,
I found her poems strewn in her room,
like nest feathers of some exotic bird.
I rescued her poems from the past,
and carried my mother's dreams into the future.                    

Poem of the Month contest entry


May 15 is the deadline for the 23rd Annual Dancing Poetry Contest. It is among San Francisco's most prestigious poetry prizes. As three grand prize winners read their poems at the Legion of Honor Museum, a group of women perform choreographed and costumed dances.

I tired of reading the list of winners year after year and finding every other local poet except me had submitted. Finally, I submitted my global warming poem last year, but I did not tailor it to the contest. It failed to win even an honorable mention.

This year, I crafted my "Sankofa" poem for the contest. I read the grand prize winning poems since the contest's inception. They often used strong, female imagery of power and creativity. I twisted this theme by linking a mythological mother bird with my mother, a poet who at one time performed a dance to Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Indian Reservation" at a Los Angeles high school. I also filled my poem with details to feed the imaginations of the choreographers, costume designers, and dancers. Finally, I posted this poem on the fourth Mother's Day after my mother's death.

The Sankofa sculpture is courtesy of Google image.

Thank you for helping me improve my poem before I submit it to the contest.

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2018. Sis Cat All rights reserved.
Sis Cat has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.