The Poem Climbs the Scaffold And Tells You What It Sees / Natasha Oladokun

Charlottesville, VA

Driving alone down Old Lynchburg Road in the lilac haze of dusk

it is so beautiful that for a moment you forget

that the root word in this road you drive down every day is lynch

that the origin of lynch as you know it comes from the name of men also named Lynch

though no one seems to know which one of them should be credited for this

and you think to yourself         somewhere in here is probably a metaphor

about the power of naming      of how easy it is to forget the origins of things

when you hold such power

but driving down Old Lynchburg Road this is not just another history lesson or a play

with words         it is these two gallons of gas left in this car that isn’t yours

and the fresh growl in your stomach reminding you

that your days in this place are as numbered as light-polluted stars and poems

poems you could take or leave

at least this is what you tell yourself as you’re doing all this driving alone because

what exactly is loneliness if not the desire to have invitations to turn down

and what exactly are poems if not invitations to look in the rearview mirror

to see your self and your past moving further from each other

while you hear your own name called from a single tree in a forest of trees

singing of their fruit

look    this bottlenecked mob of maples you thread through every day is just one more

pinprick in the constellation of hungers that brings you back

to this arbored byway again and again

gap-mouthed and lust-struck as a murder of crows despite yourself

despite how many times you’ve killed the animal inside you only to meet it again in the morning

breathing out of your own mouth as though you have never taken a word to its throat

as though you have never in your life been your own grim reaper

decked in black from scalp to heel

scythe in hand ready and eager to meet yourself

pounding at your own door

for all the talk you keep hearing these days about the need for gallows humor

you have to wonder who is putting what or whom on the scaffold

as you drive Old Lynchburg Road     so curved and steep you cannot see

the faint parting of light lying

beyond it

as published in issue 24 of The Adroit Journal

Natasha happens to have been in my Glen-class Summer 2017. And this is one of the poems she shared with us, a poem that draws me so tightly that one of the first things I did when I got home was read it to B.

I wanted to share it here with y’all back then, too, but she (understandably!!) wanted to place it somewhere with reach and reputation.

Natasha is one of the people who make me shake my head at how I’m frittering my life away–how could her work and my work receive equal treatment from our classmates?!–
but when I get grunchy like that I go back into prayer. Yes, God. I’m where you’ve asked me to be. Practicing.

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