The Ancestors Explain How Envy Grew

Calm appeared, his soul stopped, a crow
staring as he snatched down miniature angels,
trapped them in jars, capping the light away
to make a hush out of glory songs, a crying out
from the joyful aubades they breathe as easy
as moonlight on jars of preserves, their throats
full of fear now, the brave breast crumpled
in his child fingers, their prisons invisible
to the cherubim searching for heaven's missing
songsters trapped in blind ways of getting even
at a world that would make him small, make
him an impotent wonder, curl his genius under
like a witch's toes when his father died
chewing on cheese and cornbread, chocolate
surprise in the sun, an unkind ending.

He grew in the way of genius, no charts
showing where he ended and the world began,
how cities figure in the jagged sweep of cornfields,
endless thousands of shouts up into the evening,
listening to the future speaking, like the old man
in the schoolyard, a stranger by the wishing pond
in the woods, or dogs that stand up like men in hats—
these the Corinthian signs he mistook
for an alphabet giving the right to molest children.
Now wisdom is sour rubbing medicine pasted
over nightmares, not the proper wealth of an old man,
the arms of his neighbors around him like laurels.

Afaa Michael Weaver, "The Ancestors Explain How Envy Grew" from The Government of Nature. Copyright © 2013 by Afaa Michael Weaver.  Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.
Source: The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013)
More Poems by Afaa Michael Weaver