Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"Reprise" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings

"Scoliosis" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Archeology (not music)
gained parents’ approval
for a university degree
My hands touched history--
personalized death
while people died like minutes

I knew they were similar--
an ancient corpse tossed in a grave 
found beneath a parking lot
and grandfather, regal in a suit
buried in a cotton field
They ruled by traditions 

narrow as hatchets, rigid 
as armor, while those shields 
protected and excluded them
The past, honest in its shadow
never shrinks from dishonor
or a jawbone, teeth intact

with nothing to chew 
but the wreck of time 
on bones like my back--
twisted as a sinner 
or a bootlegger 
or a king

Poet’s Notes:  Scoliosis runs on the paternal side of my family. Fortunately, medical science, technology, and a pair of fine surgeons made it possible to repair my back. Meanwhile, I had always felt sorry for King Richard III, labeled deformed, and who did not have the hope of relief. I used to imagine the pain he would have experienced while on horseback--especially since I saw how similar his curvature was to mine. 

I found the title for this poem after it was written. A friend suggested I use a musical term for the word repeat or repetition. I chose “reprise” to indicate medical issues are sometimes inherited or repeated. 

As for the jawbone (mentioned in the next to last stanza), I saw an ancient one at Caesarea, Israel. Part of an archaeological team, I examined it while standing inside a recently excavated Crusader soldier’s grave. I’ll never forget it.

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