365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor


The Better Part
(After therapy, 7/29/95)

The director-chairperson says his say,
peering above the gold rims of his spectacles:
We want straight-line accounts,
you know (in other words he
didn't want no call and
response thing like in them
down-home jump sessions)
How many seizures?
How many needles?
How many aches and pains?
How about broken ribs
because of
some old strong strange
nasty cough?
It is time for a
State of the Union message
each "executive" on his very own "state."

"Executive One" says "three,"
holding up five fingers.
"Three seizures this week."
And then the Now slips out of his hand,
And he begins to float backward.
Going back
Going back
Going back
Things are
Clearing up
Clearing up
Clearing up
As he scrambles for a lifeboat
memory bits from days when
to stimulate wholeness.
We journey with him.

Who cares about
whose grace
or gain
or glory
owns the power to transport
our motley crew
A Chamber of Light.


Hey, Black Brother,
rapping and looking good
at the intersection
of what was great
and what will be great.
Tell me when you're going to be crowned Lord,
of what?
Can't you find another way to say
I am
I am
I am
I am.

Hey, Black Brother,
rapping and looking good.
Check your skyline and your tune.
Listen to the world while you check your beat.
Check your Dow Jones, check your purse.
Are you toe-deep in the silver mine,
or knee-deep in the copper pit?
What headlines/deadlines have you made to say
I'm bad
I'm bad
I'm bad
I'm bad.

Hey, Black Brother,
rapping and looking good.
Don't you see those people bursting space?
Don't you hear those people pounding gold?
Don't you know Old Dynamo
is shoving at your spine?
Get far enough in
before you get out to say
I am
I am
I am
I am.


They rolled you down the aisle
"Nearer, my God, to Thee."
I wish that you had had your way --
No church
No eulogy
No song
No tears.

The sermon by the Dean was out of tune.
He talked about the way you seemed
Poor fool,
that's all he knew.
I wish that he had known you
for one second
when your temper hit its peak.

The flowers made your death too beautiful:
Tall white lilies
Yellow roses
Pink carnations
Red gladiolas.
I wish that they had known
you called my violet bed
a patch of weeds.

I wish the rain had come
just soon enough
to soak the ribbons on the funeral car.
They waved
And waved
Goodbye to me
as we drove to the grave.

Arthenia J. Bates Millican is a retired English professor who has returned to her native Sumter after many years of teaching at Norfolk State University and Southern University in Baton Rouge. She has been widely published and has won national, state and local honors for her work, which has included poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Among her books are The Deity Nodded (1973), Such Things from the Valley (1977), and Seeds Beneath the Snow (1969).

© Copyright by POINT, 1995
Last modified 12/15/95