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.
Test for Cognitive Function
By Hermine PinsonAdded: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 / Used with permission.
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 . . .
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
Every season she’s gone,
she walks memory’s winding
“The words, what are they now?”
for safe keeping.