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Test for Cognitive Function

By Hermine Pinson

Don’t bring no ghosts in the front door
                  -- Bessie Smith




“ I will ask you to recall these words

at the end of our session”

We  blackberried in barefoot grass and ate

July sandwiches . 

Mama  said,    “Walk together, children” was code for

escaping to freedom,  walking  away.  

Lifting on the ball of the foot, then coming down.

“ . . . in a straight line, heel to toe, heel to toe.”

  She perished in flames, before she could teach us

the rest.   Gone now. Go on now,

but not beyond memory’s compulsive reach

or love’s register.

“Steady now.  Again.”

I’m older than she never will be,

shrouded in her youth.

Mama’s  slippers whisper

over  dreamed banks.

We couldn’t save her, except this way.

“What am I holding in this hand?”

Neither time nor place   . . .

hold her.

Mama birthed   me

on Cocoa cola,  potato salad,

scripture, ditties,  and good shoes. 

I went to the river to get baptized

My right foot slipped & I got baptized

Always, she wishes for me

love and clarity in the  cunning city

of language.

Every season she’s gone, 

she walks memory’s winding


“The words, what are they now?”

for safe keeping.

Added: Tuesday, September 2, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Hermine Pinson

Hermine Pinson has published three poetry collections, most recently Dolores is Blue/Dolorez is Blues.  Her first CD was Changing the Changes in Poetry & Song, in collaboration with Estella Majozo and Pulitzer-prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa.  Her most recent CD is Deliver Yourself with the Harris Simon Trio.  She has performed in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Pinson’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including Poedia Mundo, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia, Callaloo, Verse, The Ringing Ear:  Black Poets Lean SouthAfrican American Review, Common Bonds: Stories by and About Modern Texas Women, and Konch.  Her most recent short fiction appears in Richmond Noir and She has had fellowships at Norton Island, Cave Canem, Macdowell Colony, Yaddo, Soul Mountain, Byrdcliffe Colony, Vermont Studio Center, and The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She teaches creative writing and African American literature at the College of William and Mary.

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