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Parneshia Jones

Congregation

About this Poem 

“‘Congregation’ is gospel, litany, and ode to the places and people of way back when. It is a personal revival of memory and a poetic keepsake of family, ancestors, and home.”
—Parneshia Jones

Congregation

Parneshia Jones

Weir, Mississippi, 1984

Sara Ross,
Great and Grand-mother of all
rooted things waits on the family porch.
We make our way back to her beginnings.

Six daughters gather space and time
in a small kitchen.
Recipes as old as the cauldron
and aprons wrap around these daughters;
keepers of cast iron and collective

Lard sizzles a sermon from the stove,
frying uncle’s morning catch
into gold-plated, cornmeal catfish.
Biscuits bigger than a grown man’s fist
center the Chantilly laced table of yams,
black eyed peas over rice and pineapple,
pointing upside down cake.

The fields, soaked with breeze and sun,
move across my legs like Sara’s hands.
Chartreuse colored waters, hide and seek
in watermelon patches, dim my ache for Chicago.

Peach and pear ornaments
hang from Sara’s trees. Jelly jars tinted
with homemade whiskey,
guitar stringing uncles who never left
the porch, still dream of being famous
country singers.

Toothpick, tipped hats and sunset
linger as four generations come from
four corners to eat, pray, fuss and laugh
themselves into stories of a kinfolk,
at a country soiree, down in the delta.

Copyright @ 2014 by Parneshia Jones. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Parneshia Jones. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2014.

collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

collection

Poets in Conversation

In this collection of conversations, poets talk with one another about what inspires them most about the art form.

collection

Poetry and Place

In this collection, we examine the significance of place in contemporary American poetry. Here you'll find a range of poems, commentary, and essays that revolve around what we mean by the idea of "home" or of "homelessness" resulting from travel or displacement. Some works deal with a specific time and location, while others focus on a more socially-constructed view of place through the lenses of pop culture and identity. In the end, we hope this collection both confirms and challenges your notion of place in American poetry.

For a more thorough exploration of our theme, check out W. T. Pfefferle's anthology Poets on Place: Essays & Tales from the Road.

Marilyn Nelson
Photo credit: Larry Fink
collection

Poetry and Sports

While sports fans may not be widely known for their literary passions, the relationship between literature and athletic competition can be traced as far back as ancient Greece where spectator sports often included literary events as part of the festivities, and champion athletes were known to commission poets to write their victory songs. Even our own Walt Whitman was a baseball lover. Reporting for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846, he wrote: "In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing 'base,' a certain game of ball...Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms...the game of ball is glorious."

We hope this collection not only demonstrates a variety of play and seriousness, but also frames poetry itself—the craft and game of it—as a lively and reactive art form, a pastime as great as any sport.

collection

Summer Reading

If you're looking to catch up on your reading this summer, take a look at this roundup of poetry collections published in the past year.

poem

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas
1937
poem

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather'd every rack,
      the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
      While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart!
      O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.
      O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for
      you the bugle trills, 
                                  
         For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths- for you the shores
             a-crowding,
          For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
             Here Captain! dear father!
               This arm beneath your head!
                 It is some dream that on the deck,
                   You've fallen cold and dead.

          My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
          My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
          The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
          From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
               Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                 But I with mournful tread,
                   Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                     Fallen cold and dead.
Walt Whitman
1867