In All Those Camps For every particle of dust there was a name Not only when the sunlight reveals their properties floating in air that it is a phase through which they energize It is in the pulse of non-perceived awareness that their power utters every word in the primeval language once spoken in time. There are those I love dearly who do not believe there is any gift created by suffering loss. It is only when they are ready to let their arms brush against minute mouldered remains settled on cot posts, door jambs hospital beds and barbed-wire fences; when they journey to places wherein loved ones embrace them they can know joy from severed attachment I have watched them in their sleep When they dream, I believe tortured relatives sprinkle symbolice speech in pantomimes denied any sense in mornings Like ash, feelings well up from any past time as dead loved ones create moments the way a cat quietly arrives on what you’re reading to claim you for their own. I know when I awake on nights wherein I see no moon that stars will always shine from bones pulverized in all those camps I know now I can sing Kaddish only when charoset has once stuck in my throat.
by Diane Schmolka. first published in “The Ottawa Unitarian” Summer,1995
In addition to Brooks and Walker, Robert Hayden and Melvin Tolson provide glimpses of protest in their poetry of the 1940s through the 1960s. Hayden’s signature poem, “ Middle Passage ,” looks backward in its protest to the point of African enslavement in the New World. In a beautifully crafted poem of multiple voices, Hayden explores what the transportation of black bodies meant to the transporters as well as to those enslaved. For the captives, the Middle Passage was a “Voyage through death/ to life upon these shores,” though the quality of that life is dramatically diminished. In Harlem Gallery (1965), Tolson paints a panorama of Harlem and its elusive “Negro” inhabitants: “The Negro is a dish in the white man’s kitchen/ . . . a dish nobody knows.” 16