The Procession

Yusef Komunyakaa

The Procession

Yes, the dust of the Great Migration

is in our dreams & on the soles of our feet,

but we can foxtrot into this bandaged season

limping toward us from the fog. Each question

uncurls a little whip in the air. Can we change

tomorrow? Can we love what's in the deep mirror

& trace fault lines beneath nocturnal streets?

Loneliness & anger always know the road home.

Now the long-lost ones stand at the threshold

& gaze into our eyes. Please don't turn away,

don't retreat into caves of artificial light

& borrowed lowly laughter brimming up.

There's a hard, long road ahead. Nights

& days ahead, one foot in front of the other.

Days ahead, one foot in front of the other

is how we ascend Jacob's tangled ladder.

Bring your lantern & philosopher's stone,

your pick & shovel, ball of twine, hook

& sinker, your slide ruler & plumb bob.

There's some faithful work to be done

on this hill & down in the valley, too.

Bring your running shoes & baseball cap.

I tell you, I'm no one's Benjamin Banneker,

but I know a cul-de-sac is a whiplash

& slipknot. Sometimes you have to bow

to self-given thorns, or weave around a body

of water. Some things you argue against

or for, & then you go straight through bedrock.

You have to go straight through bedrock

to find hope, I said. You can't kill the past

to erase a page. Cut out a tongue singing delta,

& still a windy lamentation crests the hilltop.

Burn odes into ash to smear on the forehead,

but still the laconic cricket calls the night

to sing deeds, blasphemies, & allegories

droning beneath the earth's blueprint.

Yes, even if we parade in secondhand garb

as priestly nobodies, the Daylight Boys,

or other heretical truth-seekers, we know

weeping isn't a fly in a spider's web.

If you can't see hunger on our streets,

at least remember hard songs left behind.

At least remember hard songs left behind

on fields from Concord to the Green Zone.

Our maps go to the edge of a lost frontier,

following every unsolved riddle & tributary,

indigenous souls still in the drizzle & bog

grass, behind hedgerows--beyond imagination.

Now there's one sky, with holes in the ozone.

Limitless steps across snow recast star charts.

All the old gods gaze at us like deathwatch

beetles, waiting to see what we do with this hour.

Let Walt Whitman put his lips to your ear

as he rocks the dead of north & south in his arms.

Words taproot down to what we are made of,

& these hosannas are ours to surrender to.

These hosannas are ours to surrender to

till laurel & olive branch into our footpath,

an eruption of blooms overtaking our heads.

We're here to honor those who came before,

who gladly or sadly gave themselves back

to earth. You know their names. We know

who stood & never lost ground. We know

who knelt beside their contraband drums

& depended on hawthorn to guard them.

Sunlight & water draw roots deep as seed

& oath; their sway & pull can bend an oak

over a grand monument. Evermore pours

from a beggar's tin cup as one thousand

clocks strike inside the stone base.

Clocks strike inside the stone base.

The mainsprings are about to be adjusted

& oiled. For the first time in decades

the blindfold has slipped off her face,

& we are now seeing her true reflection

on the harbor. The shortcuts tell us, no,

the winding road isn't a second guess,

& one could risk one's life getting here.

Where I stand in splendor, at this point

of view, surely, it is already Springtime.

How could it not be? The Sunday-go-to-

meeting clothes, the bright hats cocked

at the true angle that slays blue devils.

How could it not be? This is the hour.

How could it not be? This is the hour

beckoning the North Star & drinking gourd,

waist-deep shadows crossing the Ohio River,

& I hear Fredrick Douglass' voice in a brisk

shiver of dry leaves, saying, "When the dogs

in your streets, when the fowls of the air,

when the cattle on your hills, when the fish

of the sea, & then reptiles that crawl"

The rattle of night pods is the only shaman

at this late hour. Secret markers run

from flatland to river town, pale desert

to mountain, grassland to autumn skyline.

From here I see a lighthouse, love of the planet

bringing a polar bear back to its ice floe.