“They are in the darkness that grows lighter”

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[For Jean and Sylvia, two women I knew and admired, who died in the past month.]

This is the poem that inspired Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Breaths (and which I’m hearing in my head a lot lately.)

“Spirits”

Listen to Things
More often than Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the sighs of the bush;
This is the ancestors breathing.

Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in the darkness that grows lighter
And in the darkness that grows darker.
The dead are not down in the earth;
They are in the trembling of the trees
In the groaning of the woods,
In the water that runs,
In the water that sleeps,
They are in the hut, they are in the crowd:
The dead are not dead.

Listen to things
More often than beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the bush that is sighing:
This is the breathing of ancestors,
Who have not gone away
Who are not under earth
Who are not really dead.

Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in a woman’s breast,
In the wailing of a child,
And the burning of a log,
In the moaning rock,
In the weeping grasses,
In the forest and the home.
The dead are not dead.

Listen more often
To Things than to Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind to
The bush that is sobbing:
This is the ancestors breathing.

Each day they renew ancient bonds,
Ancient bonds that hold fast
Binding our lot to their law,
To the will of the spirits stronger than we
To the spell of our dead who are not really dead,
Whose covenant binds us to life,
Whose authority binds to their will,
The will of the spirits that stir
In the bed of the river, on the banks of the river,
The breathing of spirits
Who moan in the rocks and weep in the grasses.

Spirits inhabit
The darkness that lightens, the darkness that darkens,
The quivering tree, the murmuring wood,
The water that runs and the water that sleeps:
Spirits much stronger than we,
The breathing of the dead who are not really dead,
Of the dead who are not really gone,
Of the dead now no more in the earth.

Listen to Things
More often than Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the bush that is sobbing:
This is the ancestors, breathing.

Birago Diop

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Dear Patricia,

    Hello, there, my so, so very dearly special and precious white friend and sister who you are For Always so, so very much, Patricia!!!!!! What a so truly sagacious and beautiful poem which you have contributed by our Birago Diop! It is so true that the people who have graduated to our Heaven are not gone very much indeed. They live on in Heaven, loving us, cherishing, wishing us so much good, waiting for us for our time to come when we graduate to our Heaven as well. I love how the poet described in such lovely composition how we can hear heavenly persons through our grand nature like with the voice of water and listening to the wind with the very serene sighing of nature’s very breath. Wow, this magnificent and expressive poem truly was right on and so very descriptively showed how life does indeed go on within our Heavenly realm, and that those who have gone before us are never gone for good, and that they live on in Perfection and Bliss in our Heaven as we will also some day with them and our Good God! I so love this poem, sister!!!!!! My friend, thank-you for this contribution!!!!!! My spirit is just so, so very blessed by this and also by your spectacular and blessedly inspirational blog post article!!!!!!

    Patricia, I am thinking about how your Boston Celtics are playing my Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs right now! Go Cleveland Cavaliers!!!!!! Boston Celtics-boo!!!!!!!! (SMILE!!!!!!!!!) Just kidding, Patricia, I am a good sport and I am very sportsmanlike and I don’t take my sports too seriously and get all upset the way a lot of fans do although I would love it if my Cleveland Cavaliers did win (SMILE!!!!!!) Patricia, my dearly special and precious white sisterfriend, please have a wondrously wonderful Wednesday, and may all of your days be so, so very especially blessed!!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always with Peace and Love To You For Always, my white sister, Patricia, with Blessings and Even More Blessings To You For Always, my white friend,

    Your Christian lesbian black sisterfriend For Always in solidarity, Sherry Gordon

  2. Sister, I meant to also say that my heart, prayers, thoughts, and condolences are For Always with you as these dearest women you admire and hold in great esteem, Jean and Sylvia, have graduated to our Heaven! I can tell that they mean so much to you and that they were very much indeed very special and powerful women! You will see them again in our Heaven, sisterfriend who you are For Always so, so very much, Patricia!

  3. Wonderful to read that poem that I’ve heard just snatches of from the CD player, like “your children aren’t your children.”

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