Thursday, July 23, 2015

Harper Lee excels, again

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee opens up her wounds and bleeds onto the page,
and, somehow, her brilliance tells a story
that transforms her pain into revelation
that speaks to the deepest of who I am,
a son and a Southerner,
a Southerner, both loving and hating the culture
that wants to define me,
appreciative of my roots
and flummoxed by the blight they bring with them,

when we, the poor, the farmers, came to this land,
we hoped to become more than we had been,
yet we didn’t have fossil fuels and machines
to multiply the effect of our work,
and we didn’t afford to pay for labor to do the same,
so we made a pact with the Devil
and imagined dark slaves from a dark continent
could work to enable us to be lords and ladies,

a perverse vision of the Middle Ages reached toward modernity,

Harper Lee is born into the next day,
after iron, lead, death, and Reconstruction
had hoped to rescue us from our nightmare,

her father, when she is Scout morphing into Jean Louise,
is a gentleman who treats all with care and dignity,
and is as perfect in To Kill a Mockingbird
as all of us would wish to be,
who the saint in our super-ego imagines we can be,
Gregory Peck, who played him in the movie,
considered Atticus Finch closest to who Peck wished to be,
yet we have to grow up, 
grow past the dehumanizing that perfection demands,

in Go Set a Watchman Scout’s father reveals his clay feet,
and she, and we, and I, have to deal with it,
we have to get it, that we exiles from Eden
must labor, and suffer, and have limits crush down on us,

both my wife and I had Southern fathers
who would do anything for anyone they came to know,
and both of our fathers felt shackles on their souls
from what they thought they knew of race,

that of God in us needs to manifest
and seek to lead us back to the wholeness
which our nightmares have helped us lose.  

by Henry H. Walker
July 20, ’15
image courtesy of Google Images

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