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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 and two CD’s.  She has performed in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Pinson’s poetry, prose, and fiction have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. She has held several fellowships: Cave Canem, Ford Foundation, Virginia Humanities, Yaddo, Macdowell, Vermont Studio Center, Byrdcliffe, and Soul Mountain. She is the Hamilton Professor of English and Africana Studies at the College of William and Mary.

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