The Harp
(for Augusta Savage)

When the hand of God plucks
each string shivers
begets lovely beings—
twelve straight-backed women
children and men
with shapely skulls lit
like meteors
and bodies draped
in fine pleats.
Will no one bronze them?
asks the artist.
But, O, says Her Beloved,
you have already sealed them
with your lovely hands
and they shine
like your own star-burnished


            vibrating sharp
sung through teeth–soul notes
                                 mouths glinting
                                 honed into questions
hot skin   shiny bones
absolute experience
another stage
                        residual night: this dark
                                                humming moon

The Conversation

Man with brown hat
minus one-half
of one leg
props crutch
under one armpit
reaches arms up
to remonstrate    to explain    to extol sky
to goose-necked woman
with black umbrella
who holds her head back
hisses    listens     ripens into awe.
Four eyes glow like opals
behind thieves’ masks
while bodies    crutch     umbrella
shimmy on rain-swept street.

~ Inspired by Bill Traylor’s painting “Man on Crutch and Woman with Umbrella”

The Briar

Everything is bright    garish    barbed.
A dry wind spreads
horizon like orange waves.
Trees burn like lamb’s flesh.
These are dangerous times.
The world is roaring
and numb.
Yet I will take Rumi’s lion
and fan it into flame
become inside    outside fire and balm.
Now is the time for action—
let us find our way
through this blazing briar
of razors.

Taunja Thomson on Facebook

Cover: Photo of Bill Traylor’s “Untitled” (Woman with Umbrella and Man on Crutch), 1939, pencil and opaque watercolor on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., 1991.96.7