Ars Poetica

We Don't Know Her Name by L. Lamar Wilson

photo of L. Lamar Wilson by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

We Do Not Know Her Name

I do not know her name, but without her,
we do not have a name. No name, no face,

no place with your people, my people. You
have forgotten us, the tawny ones like my great-

grandmother, like Chief Osceola's Morning Dew,
the drops of your blood mixed with ours,

how you fought for her honor & ours,
because we were wronged, together. My hero,

your Osceola, loved his Morning Dew,
got his wife's brothers – my ancestors

& yours – to soak the Florida soil, the Georgia clay,
with a richer red. Her seeds, your seeds, legion.

Don't remember that now? How we wandered
with you along rivers now reduced to a trail,

made new homes in Okeechobee swamps, Oklahoma
& Mexico deserts. Learned Cherokee, French & Spanish.

Contigo. History's dead now. My grandfather's mother –
she's dead, too. No name, no face, no place

with my people: you. Only a figment
of her daughter-in-law's fading memory now,

the glaucoma & Alzheimer's clouding visions
of hair that crowned breasts & hips like a halo.

You have forgotten us. You have voted
us away from the land our blood bought.

We don't remember that now,
either. We do not know our names.

L. Lamar Wilson's poem originally appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Summer/Fall 2009. Reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.

In celebration of Ars Poetica (2010), Rachel Eliza Griffiths' exhibition of photographs of Cave Canem faculty and fellows, the Poetry Society of America is presenting a selection of her portraits, each one accompanied by a poem from a Cave Canem poet she has captured on film.

As the poet Nikky Finney remarks "Because of her gifted, mindful pressing private eye on us, we discover what we could never completely see before, all around us, could never completely find before, right there in full shadow and slated sun, not even with our own two eyes: All of every bit of who we are."

Photo from left to right: Marvin White and L. Lamar Wilson.

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