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James Baldwin, Dominique Christina, Sasha Pimentel: The Wisdom of 3 Poems

Photo credit: Shaun Finn

Poetry isn’t only a source we turn to for healing; it’s also a source we turn to for wisdom. Wisdom discovered from experience. Wisdom passed down from one generation to the next. Wisdom that surprises us in an instant of keen insight. No matter the occasion, it’s there whenever we need it, laid out in verse like strings of pearls. And since we find ourselves in a moment of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need it now, more than ever. In our second installment for this year’s National Poetry Month series, discover the truth in the poetry of James Baldwin, Dominique Christina, and Sasha Pimentel.


James Baldwin’s “Amen” from Jimmy’s Blues

No, I don’t feel death coming.
I feel death going:
having thrown up his hands,
for the moment.

I feel like I know him
better than I did.
Those arms held me,
for a while,
and, when we meet again,
there will be that secret knowledge
between us.


Dominique Christina’s “The Chil’ren Might Know” from Anarcha Speaks 

we once was warriors
bone sharp and tangling up
wit whatever wild was in the world
before some ships rolled in
wit folk we ain’t never seen
brandin iron and bullet men
claimin everythin
leavin misery

they know we ain’t always
been so lowly
so feverish wit brokenness
so in  fil   trated
maybe they can look past

the bruises
to see when we
were bigger underneath
and forgive us our frailty
we was overcome
wit the kind of
meanness that don’t care
about nothin but
feedin itself

we had hands once
and a river to bathe in
and names
full names
that called us home.

the chil’ren might know that
if they lookin at us right

we lost our mouths
’cross a mighty mighty ocean.
coulda died but we don’t know how . . .


Sasha Pimentel’s “The Kiss, on Gustav Klimt’s painting, 1907-1908” from For Want of Water

Do you really think if you bend
me, I will love you? You
crack my chin up, your hands
brown pigeons scheming reunion

at my cheek and temple, your jaw
cragged at the end of your thick neck
of longing. I claw onto you
as the only tree here, your

swing. I’m mad for gravity though
I’m bound, diagonally, to
you. Let me. Push from your trunk towards
the edge and my freedom. Leave me

to wither while moss weeps
in the corners, our halo liquid
as yolk, waving from our bodies’ heat,
our divinity melting. My dress

blossoms loudly. You are still
wrestling me closer. If only I could
release to you my mouth just this
once and you would leave me,

but the shadows of your robe are
so haphazard. I know you will try
to smother me again. The poppies scratch. My feet
reach beyond spring.