I first heard of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, African American, poet, novelist and playwright, this past weekend at a Leadership gathering of Interplay Leaders. Masankho Banda from Malawi read Dunbar’s poem on “Emancipation” then asked us to talk to an assigned partner about what words stood out for us.

I found myself confronted by the line “those lash-ringing days you endured.”

This is the poem “Listening” that I wrote in response:

My ancestors “listened”; no lash they heard or felt.

Now, I ask: “what would my destiny be if they had endured the lash-ringing days?

What would my wounds be like, if their burden I now bore?”

In truth, my ancestors are your ancestors;

and yours mine.

I have much to learn from the ancient ones,

those who endured such lash-ringing days.

Listen, they say,

listen again,

listen deep!