Stone Telling

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by JT Stewart

       — for Nisi

She drew her first basket
on its side she made a mask
w/ eyes and nose
on its top she made a mouth
slightly open
so it could eat
she thought

She invited some friends
to see the basket

Inside its curved belly
they saw
a flag w/ zebra marks
the curved teeth of a lion
gold   elegant   huge
rows of elephant tusks
a crocodile napping

They heard a spirit voice
calling all their names

They struggled to breathe
They tried to speak
They wanted to dance

JT Stewart (poet, writer, playwright, editor, teacher) co-founded the Clarion West SF Writers' Workshop. Recently, she participated in POETS FOR CHANGE – an international reading of 100 k poets reading on a single day in 115 countries.

As a woman of African descent, she often writes about cultural collisions and the fortunes/misfortunes of people touched by diasporas – both real and imagined. Readers can sample her work in The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry (Rose Lemberg, Ed.)

Placement of JT's poetry broadsides include: Western Washington University, the Seattle Art Museum, the Washington State Convention Center Galleries, and the Allen Library (University of Washington).

The audio for this poem was recorded at Jack Straw Productions.

"Ancestors" was originally printed in Promised Lands: Poems from the sovereign of dishpan sonnets (Lamaya Press, 2010). Reprinted with permission.

Read JT's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!

Photography: adapted from Woven grass basket – African Art Centre by Karen Lotter.