- Golden Shovel #1: truth in G #: old-infirm-mary, and: Golden Shovel #2: John Edmonston(e), or "Darwin's negro bird-stuffer", and: Golden Shovel #3: Watch Face
Golden Shovel #1: truth in G #: old-infirm-mary
after Gwendolyn Brooks's
"Old Mary" & "truth"
Turning again this spade of gold,I rehearse scenes from an infirmary.
Charting horizons of mourning haze in myHead, fierce dread comes hammering to last,
Settling in a dear thick shelter of defense.How hard, heavily firm, I prayed for th-th-th-is—
To feel sweet, snug coolness, theWay I remember, always in the present
As memories are, loosed from tenseUnawareness, a door ajar, yet dark. It
Remains familiar, because littleHas changed by the lengthy hurts,
Sessions with shade shimmering in me.Flashes come one after other, shudder now,
As before, with a fear to weep, to flee, to, to,To sleep all through the night-years—and to know
all these years, my senses seizing as Irecollect—that hurt happens now. And it shall
Be through the propitious wake of the sun, notInto its blaze, that I pass, hearing: onward, go. . .
Golden Shovel #2: John Edmonston(e), or "Darwin's negro bird-stuffer"
after Sizzla Kalonji and Ahikar (700 B.C.)
"Oh my child! . . . and a sparrow in thy hand
is better than a thousand sparrows flying. . ."
From proverb 49, translated from Aramaic
We learn of Charles Darwin, don'tWe all? Whose theories take a biteOut of orthodox gospel of theDay. To him we give a handOf praise for recognizing thatProcess of selection that feedsDynamisms, naturally. But you [End Page 394] Wonder, from where he is inspired, don'tYou? Examining mollusk, beak, and beeOn islands far from his own with a greedyEye to observe, collect, categorize, and aKnack for preserving those dead birdSpecimens packing his Beagle inVoyages keeping every handBusy. He dislikes medicine, which isWhy he spent hours at the museum worthMore than he could know then, moreThan we are taught now, more thanTaxidermy. Perhaps he learned—us twoMen setting together at work stuffing-inConversation—about life, joys, ills, mysteries: theStuff of slaves, scientists, of biology, and bush.
Golden Shovel #3: Watch Face
after Fred D'Aguiar's "Demerara Sugar"
What might it mean to be called SugarDumpling returning a shtups eye-pass to cutRight through a caller's very being by
Mere nod slight gesture of handSquint gaze back & forth swingingSwift across the chest as a cutlass
Does its work chopping with-Out regard to wood or flesh or halfSomething between this world or an-
Other bodies speaking by tooth & eyeWith lip to nose fastening mean mug keptUp in a permanent screw twisted on
Crumpled cheeks that just about anyOld worm pecking pidgin snakeCan induce to shrivel wrapping
Smooth folds of face in on itsOwn contours you just can't feel a wayAbout because men we're more than around
Pain but create it from lash word look caneWhen mothers collect spent remains from fields [End Page 395]
Jeremy Jacob Peretz is a teaching fellow and doctoral candidate in culture and performance in the department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently writing a dissertation on intersections of religious and racial politics in Guyana. Jeremy has received numerous awards and fellowships in support of his ethnographic field research, as well as for his critical and creative writing, including second place in the 2017 Ethnographic Poetry Competition hosted by the American Anthropological Association.