Opal Moore reading her poems at the High Museum's Bearden exhibition on January 3, 2020.
Moore was the curator for the Bearden Poetry Project for The Art Section.
Poem for Bearden
Bearden wrote a poem that he recites in the documentary of his life and work, Bearden Plays Bearden. The poem speaks of his great grandfather’s house across time. As the poem comes to a close we read these lines:
Silence hides in all the closets
keeping there a greater truth.
What is it I’m really trying to remember?
“The Weave of Memory” opens with a manipulation of Bearden’s observation about memory and life: “It’s not so much the experience—what you’ve been through, but it’s the way you weave your memory—the weaving of your memory.” Elsewhere in the poem, Bearden quotes appear in italics—from his poem or his interviews.
Opal Moore, recently retired from academic life, lives and writes in Atlanta. Her poetry collection, Lot’s Daughters, is itself a work of memory, loss, and the silences hidden in closets. She is currently working with visual artist Arturo Lindsay, to bring their long-time poetry and visual art collaboration to fruition. The work, “Children of Middle Passage,” has been performed in five cities in Germany, and in the U.S.
The book will be completed in 2020.
Moore joined the board of The Art Section in 2019.
The weave of memory: #28 “Farewell Eugene”
“The sporting people were allowed to come but
they had to stand on the far right.” Albert Murray
it’s not so much what happened to you / but how you choose/to tell it, or
if you do.
A small boy lies in a casket
foreground. In this painting
his death matters.
The people gather.
The holy rollers and
the sportin’ class together.
Good that they wait for you sometimes—
memories can harden
insincere as first baby shoes
frozen in bronze and no longer
recall the smell of you.
Memories can wait for you
sometimes, like bronze shoes or
ephemeral as a perfume,
as the woody scent of a lover
lingers on your collar or tucked
in emptied sheets, or
what you remember
The blues are made
of laughter but always the story
is a story of loss—
so it’s the laughter
that cannot keep.
A boy whistling on a step
turns, falls into your dreams.
What is it I’m really trying to
remember? my mother’s childhood
hunger? a burned photo.
Memory. Like a scissor-cut circle
of yellow paper. Paste it up there in your
dim sky and it becomes the sun.
And then nothing can stop that sun,
that bright blare of a juke joint trumpet
wakes the birds, those journeying things
from their sleep and nothing
nothing can stop the birds
from singing songing
singing as if death ain’t nothing
but another acorn fallen from
a tree, nothing but a
hole in yellow paper—You
better keep that too.
The hole. Paste it in
of what was,
and what remains.
* Bearden quote: It’s not so much the experience—what you’ve been through but it’s the way you weave your memory—the weaving of your memory.
Opal Moore is a poet and writer. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Moore curated the Bearden Poetry Project for The Art Section.