Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving

(Market Day by Abner Dubic, born 1948, Haitian artist)

With a family, you’re not alone.

“The arrival of Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi at Mokolodi Game Reserve would normally be an occasion for the barking of dogs and for laughter and the shaking of hands. Mma Ramotswe was known here — her father’s brother, her senior uncle, was also the uncle (by a second marriage) to the workshop supervisor. And if that were not enough, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni’s cousin’s daughter worked in the kitchen at the restaurant. So it was in Botswana, almost everywhere; ties of kinship, no matter how attenuated by distance or time, linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of human love and community. And in the fibers of that blanket there were threads of obligation that meant that one could not ignore the claims of others. Nobody should starve; nobody should feel that they were outsiders; nobody should be alone in their sadness.”

~ Alexander McCall Smith,
Blue Shoes and Happiness, one book in the wonderful mystery series about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, operated by the wise and kind Mma Ramotswe, she of “traditional build”


(based on an old photograph bought in a shop at Half Moon Bay, summer, 1999)

No sound, the whole thing.
Unknown folk. People waving from a hillside of ripple grass
to people below in an ongoing meadow.

Side rows of trees waving in a tide of wind,
and because what is moving is not moving,
you catch a state of stasis.

Opposite of this inactivity
you imagine distant music and buzzing and crickets
and that special hot smell of summer.

To the garden past the Bay to the meadow,
cliff sheltered with low clouds, offset by nodding thistle.
Tatter-wort and Stinking Tommy along footpath
worn down by locals. But who and why?

In the photograph itself you’re now looking the other way
to unknown clusters of houses,
Where forces are balanced to near perfection.

Who could live
in such a great swollen silence and solitude?
You hear church bells
from Our Lady’s Tears breaking that silence nicely
but just in the right way so silence continues
as though nothing else matters day after day.

And anyway, each face seems so familiar.

What do you do when you wave back?
You wave vigorously.
You remember your own meadow,
your cliffside and town,
photographs forgotten,
the halfhearted motion of your hand,
your grandmother’s church-folk
gathering on a Sunday afternoon in saintly quietness.

You name the people
whose names are not written on the back.
You forgive them for wrapping themselves in silence.

You enter house after house and open top-floor windows
and you wave down to future generations like this.

~ Clarence Major, born 1936, American poet and novelist, and editor of Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang

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