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,