Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Working Order

Poem of the Day:
Yusef Komunyakaa's "Gristmill"
Magic City

The voice of Komunyakaa's poem seems to be that of a child; it is utterly sincere and because of this it is brazenly observant. The speaker concerns himself with the process of grain-making in a work environment characterized by color. Komunyakaa writes, "Black hands shucked/& shelled corn into a washtub...Daddy shouldered a hundred-pound sack/To Mister Adam's gristmill" (lines 1-6). From the raw material handled by "[B]lack hands" comes "the meal & husk" (line 25) finally handled by "[S]mooth, white hands" (line 24). Within the mechanics of grain-making lies an order of color; the final product is white, the crude is black.

I am not of Komunyakaa's time, location or color. I am unable to tune into the rhythm of which he writes, the rhythm of "Slip-/Socket to ball-/Bearing & coghweel" (lines 10-12) that create the tension between two races. Rather, in the past few days I have become cognizant of a generational rhythm, a gristmill per era, that is taking place.

All weekend my family and I have been setting up the house in preparation for my sister's high school graduation party. Inherent in this process are sounds that I like to think mirror Komunyakaa's gristmill; there is the drilling of my father as he fixes a bar stand (at 7 AM nonetheless), the taping and stapling of pictures for my sister's aptly titled 'shrine,' and the emptying of ice into a keg barrel. These sounds coalesce to form a sort of machine, grinding out a social gathering.

There is also the generational rhythm superimposed upon these sounds; one day perhaps I too will be working tirelessly to set up for my child's high school graduation party, just as my parents did three years ago for mine and now for my sister's. It is a rhythm that persists over time and a rhythm that persists now, though shortly.

A Poem A Day Audrey


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