Richard J Tilley:

Writer, Researcher, Poet

Augusta, Georgia 1939

This poem was directly inspired by a class I took on African American Poetry when I was an English major with a concentration in Africana at a small HBCU in Maryland. I wrote it after I had returned to South Carolina. I have not been able to locate the poem that planted the seed, but it was a tribute poem to Cane by Jean Toomer. I cannot recommend that book more highly. Reading it is a mystical experience. I recall the poet offhandedly mentioning Toomer and it then becoming clear the influence that Toomer’s writing had on the poem. This was the case even more so as the poet’s other poems were markedly different.

This is not my strongest poem and it was almost left out of my collection, After Marriage: Poems In and Our of Disunion, but some idea in the poem continued to stay with me. I made the decision that if I continued to think about it, there might be something there that others would continue to think about as well. This poem is featured in the chapter titled, “Dry Bones: Songs of the Hagiocaspian Sea Part II.”

Augusta, Georgia 1939

I hear her soft
indulgent, familiar pine
fostering disant space
between her temperate limbs
and my loose voice

Her raised neck
waits for me
to leave
to hush under her shade
recalling the swollen lake
where out bodies met
like two limbs in Georgia
of two different shades
faded needles
penetrating the bark
of my gasp and in my grip

She approaches
disrobes me
and offers me
to the choice of her soft
indulgent, familial pines

There may be some subtly, representation, and scene setting that is lost of the reader not familiar with African American poetry. During this era of my writing I was very highly influenced by African American poetry, but with this more so than any others I tried to make that show.