Poetry Sunday: “Instruction, Final: To Brown Poets from Black Girl with Silver Leica,” by Nikky Finney
Instruction, Final: To Brown Poets from Black Girl with Silver Leica
Be camera, black-eyed aperture. Be diamondback terrapin, the only animal
that can outrun a hurricane. Be 250 million years old. Be isosceles. Sirius.
Rhapsody. Hogon. Dogon. Hubble. Stay hot. Create a pleasure that can stir
up the world. Study the moon with a pencil. Drink the ephemerides. Lay with
the almanacs. Become the lunations. Look up the word southing before you
use it in a sentence. Know southing is not a verb. Imitate them remarkable
days. Locate all your ascending nodes. Chew eight times before you swallow
the lyrics and silver Lamentations of James Brown, Abbey Lincoln, Al Green,
Curtis Mayfield, and Aretha. Hey! Watch your language! Two and a Quarter
is not the same as Deuce and a Quarter. Two-fisted is not two-faced. Remember:
One monkey don’t stop no show. Let your fat belly be quilts of quietus. Pass
on what the great winemakers know: The juice is not made in the vats but in
the vineyard. Keep yourself rooted in the sun, rain, and darkly camphored air.
Grow until you die, but before you do, leave your final kiss: Lay mint or orange
eucalyptus garland, double tuck these lips. Careful to the very end what you
deny, dismiss, & cut away.
I have spoken the best I know how.
From Head Off & Split (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press 2011) and published with permission of the press. Copyright © 2011 by Nikki Finney. Published 2011 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All Rights reserved.
Listen to Ms. Finney reading her poem.
Nikky Finney was born by the sea in South Carolina and raised during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements. She began reading and writing poetry as a teenager growing up in the spectacle and human theater of the Deep South. At Talladega College she began to autodidactically explore the great intersections between art, history, politics, and culture. These same arenas of exploration are ongoing today in her writing, teaching, and spirited belief in one-on-one activism. She is the author of four books of poetry, On Wings Made of Gauze, RICE, The World Is Round, and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011. She has written extensively for journals, magazines, and other publications. For twenty-one years, she taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky and now holds the John H. Bennett, Jr., Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She travels extensively, never lecturing, always inviting and hoping for conversations that just might improve the human condition. Head Off & Split can be ordered here or at Amazon.