Saturday, November 08, 2008

40 Acres

Forty Acres: a poem for Barack Obama from Nobel winner Derek Walcott

Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving —
a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,
an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,
parting for their president: a field of snow-flecked cotton
forty acres wide, of crows with predictable omens
that the young ploughman ignores for his unforgotten
cotton-haired ancestors, while lined on one branch, is a tense
court of bespectacled owls and, on the field's receding rim —
a gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him.
The small plough continues on this lined page
beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado's
black vengeance,
and the young ploughman feels the change in his veins,
heart, muscles, tendons,
till the land lies open like a flag as dawn's sure
light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower

From The New York Times Online
November 5, 2008
Not to be a wet blanket, but does anyone notice the irony in the fact that Obama is not a descendent of the people Walcott is talking about in this poem? Also, the poem itself seems a bit rushed. Not the best poem of Walcott's -- one would expect better from a Nobel Prize winner. There are some lovely ideas in the images, though. Too bad they're wasted on the son of a African chief whose family was wealthy enough to send their son to the U.S. t o study. The problem is that this is simply not the appropriate poem for Barack Obama. I'm no fan of his as a politician, but doesn't he deserve to have a poem that is actually about HIM?
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