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"In lieu of much description of this ekphrastic poem or Edmonia Lewis, I'd merely ask that you look upon the actual sculpture, seen in the attached photo." —Tyehimba Jess

Hagar in the Wilderness

Tyehimba Jess

Carved Marble. Edmonia Lewis, 1875
 
My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carved me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.
God of each eye fixed to heaven,
God of the fallen water jug,
of all the hope a vessel holds
before spilling to barren sand.
God of flesh hewn from earth
and hammered beneath a will
immaculate with the power
to bear life from the lifeless
like a well in a wasteland.
I'm made in the image of a God
that knows flight but stays me
rock still to tell a story ancient as
slavery, old as the first time
hands clasped together for mercy
and parted to find only their own
salty blessing of sweat.
I have been touched by my God
in my creation, I've known her caress
of anointing callus across my face. 
I know the lyric of her pulse
across these lips...  and yes,
I've kissed the fingertips
of my dark and mortal God.
She has shown me the truth
behind each chiseled blow
that's carved me into this life,
the weight any woman might bear 
to stretch her mouth toward her
one true God, her own
beaten, marble song.
 
 
Edmonia Lewis (1845-1907) was an African/Native American expatriate sculptor who was phenomenally successful in Rome.

Copyright © 2013 by Tyehimba Jess. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 26, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Tyehimba Jess. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 26, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Tyehimba Jess