So the state of Michigan is lucky–they have Diane Wakoski in East Lansing, teaching at Michigan State, and over in Ann Arbor, Lorna Goodison (b. 1947) teaches at U. Michigan. Ms. Goodison is a Jamaican immigrant who has been publishing her poems in book form since 1980, and teaching in U.S. colleges since the 1990s. She also writes stories and paints, providing the cover art for most of her own books.
A poem needs a through-line to guide you: theme, repetition, alliteration (used in today’s selection), rhythm. Ms. Goodison knows this, hence her name’s anagram, "No rails, no good." Enjoy this poem from about 15 years ago. -ed.
THE YARD MAN: AN ELECTION POEM
When bullet wood trees bear
the whole yard dreads fallout
from lethal yellow stone fruit,
and the yard man will press
the steel blade of a machete
to the trunk in effort to control
its furious firing. He will dash
coarse salt at its roots to cut
the boil of leaves, try slashing
the bark so it will bleed itself
to stillness, and yet it will shoot
until the groundcover is acrid
coffin color, the branches dry
bones. Under the leaves it lives,
poverty’s turned-down image
blind, naked, one hand behind
one before. The yard’s first busha
was overseer who could afford
to cultivate poverty’s lean image,
but good yard man says since we
are already poor in spirit, fire for it.