HomeSouthern VoiceA Pair of Poems by Valerie Westmark

A Pair of Poems by Valerie Westmark

(Unfinished) South

I’ve known you three ways.

Once, a home.
Sea lined gravel,
palms, the roving.
Painted houses spread,
and oak trees. Can you smell the rain?
my mother always asked.

Then, the sea
swallowed history,
white porches splattered
black, we took,
took till everyone but us
was bought and sold,
was worn. Took till we owned
the land, the sea, the air.

Now, dirt has all,
we nothing: no tribal songs,
no heart, no help.

 

Either Way, An Elegy.

cottonOppressed, what have you?
No home, ma’am, no word, no
land. We have been scattered,
pressed, lost. Can you hear
our mothers moan
for sons swallowed by fields,
the scythe, the cotton, the sugar cane?
Don’t you know our chains?
You made them, ma’am.
You made and fastened them.

Oppressors, where is our war
cry? Lost in the slums, hidden
under polite terms: servants,
we call, maids. What have we gained?
Power, we shout, liberty. A type
of freedom. But, oppressors,
what have we missed in the sea?
We do not know Moses,
never waded in the water,
cannot trace a lineage.

Valerie Westmark graduated from Samford University in 2012 with a concentration in creative writing. As part of her undergraduate studies, she wrote a thesis centered on the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, particularly focusing on how this played out in the South’s history of slavery. The thesis consisted of an essay on Derek Walcott’s poetry and his experience as the colonized and concluded with a collection of her work from the viewpoint of the colonizer. Westmark was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. She has also been published numerous times in Samford University’s Sojourn and has also been published in Wide Angle. She currently still resides in Pensacola.

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