Five Poems

by Hampton, Kirsten

Volume 14:2, Spring 2013

INTO THE HEADWIND

The Lovings of Caroline County, Virginia,
living in Washington, DC
Letter, June 20, 1963

He was bricklayer, drag car racer,
his neck ringed red with a pattern,
like tires, or Saturn

the sol ferino red trim around the rim
of Lincoln’s White House china,
E Pluribus Unum, eagle and shield in the center.

At the law office, they sat on the sofa,
Richard’s arm behind her,
as long as a church pew.

They all said he deferred to her.
Mildred, soft and brown as her pressed curls,
oyster-buttoned sweater.

The neat scroll of her handwritten note -
words like canoes or sailboats
making their way into the headwind:

Dear Sir
I am writing to you concerning a problem we have.

5 yrs. ago my husband and I were married here in the District.
We then returned to Va. to live.  My husband is white, I am
part negro, & part Indian.

At the time, we did not know there was a law in Va. against mixed marriages.
Therefore we were jailed and tried…We were to leave the state to make our home.

The problem is we are not allowed to visit our families.  The judge said if we enter the state within the next 30 yrs, that we will have to spend 1 yr. in jail.

Please help us if you can.  Hope to hear from you real soon.

 

 

READING AND COMPREHENSION OF VIRGINIA HISTORY

That in 1691 Virginia banished any white man who intermarried
with a Negro, mulatto or Indian bound or free
That Virginia Indians were categorized as black
That in 1924 there evolved a “Pocahontas defense”
That not more than one-sixteenth Indian qualified as white
That one drop of any other admixture turned a person black
That color must be registered with the State
That mixed marriages with whites were prohibited, a felony,
in or moving back from out of State
That Pocahontas was Algonquian, born in 1597 on the tidewater
That Pocahontas was the favorite daughter of Powhatan
That Pocahontas married an Englishman
That Pocahontas had a son.

 

 

Kumi Korf, "Depth of Sea," intaglio print, 19" x 36"

Kumi Korf, “Depth of Sea,” 2005, intaglio print, 19″ x 36″

DETAIL FROM “ONE DROP” RULE

If there is       one

emerald          anchovy

darting in       the water

the ocean       cannot be blue.

 

 

OFTEN WHEN MY DAUGHTER SLEEPS

Her arms lie above her head,
as if reaching for light,

as though she is widgeon
or eelgrass

floating in a great underwater meadow
where the lined seahorse,

blue crab and bass hide.
Perhaps she is part

of a submerged river forest, reaching,
like pine in pre Columbian time,

that once covered the watershed.
She is tender biota

in that bed.
Often, when she wakes

the crease of her cheek
is salted with moisture.

 

 

PORTRAIT

The beach sides to tide like a woman in bed,
her body curved along its edge, coastline.  Surf fishermen

cast back, then far into sloughs and deep water bowls.
They see sand shift.  Shore that was here

is now partly filled by seawater,
and like a flat, gray skate inadvertently caught,

a pool hovers with a tail that flows back into swash,
ridge and runnel foreshadowing

an inlet, submerged car park –
shuttles to the beach for all but earliest anglers.

Backwash, sea rise, tidal range,
groundwater – all grind sandbanks.  Collapsed cliffs

are more evidence for rod men, geologists’ conclusions –
Our Chesapeake has one of the highest tidewater erosions

I have even seen marsh margin, resistant rhizomes –
last barrier girded by strong peat –

I have seen it overwashed by a perched water table, fetch of waves.
The Atlantic has been changing the nation’s profile for thousands of years.

The shore is like a woman, but not at rest – her transforming beachface
an impermanent veneer – like malleable truths

used to salt human differences.  Surf casters
know that the catch today will be not be the same tomorrow.

 

 

Kirsten Hampton has been named 2013 Poetry Fellow by the Gettysburg Review and was selected in 2012 as the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow for Poetry, also completing a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has published in Blueline, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Little Patuxent Review, Potomac Review and Subtropics. She produced the documentary “Hidden Books: the Art of Kumi Korf” which explores the creative process through a link to Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. The film received a CINE Golden Eagle Award and screened at the Library of Congress and in national film festivals. A former university Vice President and Associate Dean, Hampton partners in a management and media company and is COO and Senior Vice President at a Washington DC think tank. To read more by this author: Kirsten Hampton: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue