Opal Moore photo: Marie Thomas
For Deanna Sirlin’s To Be and Been To
(a poem in two parts)
My first painting teacher was color blind. All his canvases were green.
Made this Chicago girl think of landscapes I’d never seen, or ever would see
yet I saw his endless meadows full of grasses waving this way, that way.
could his spectrum-robbed eyes see in all that green-apple green, his yellow
waves of grain and fruited plains—no poke salad or collard—no
black soil hid beneath, unseen—no seedling Eve unfurling, apple
her virgin seed of arsenic fermenting. I don’t wonder if my artist-
teacher can see me through his color-blind eyes, see green girl dreams of
a she even she’s never seen—might ever see—a paintbox
yet unexplored, poured onto the floor of her lithe mind where
her bright footmarks make conjure of light, make conjure
of the body, colors christened after the sounds of her laughter
One day I would hear of a girl named Khalo—and re-name the color red.
I failed ‘color wheel’. My world is one continent shook loose into
Bintu is a name for the fragmented African
who went from village to London NY California Chicago.
If you Bintu the world is a painted meadow
of green, money-green green.
Color of got to. Color of made it.
Color of forgetful spring and all new things.
But if you Bintu, blue is body. Memory of all we did not afford
your blue body is archive hitched to moon tide
to bird that sings midnight like a clock strikes a blues-blue,
a black-blue water music of goodbye, your hello.
You will look one day for the color blue, for the path that spirit travels
back to banyan. I look, and all our shores are the inside-pink
of abandoned seashells, shores windswept green as meadow
in spring, a brand-new thing, waves of grain leaning this way and that
as far as the eye can sing.
Deanna Sirlin, To Be, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 60 inches
Deanna Sirlin, Been To , 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11 inches
Opal Moore, a native Chicagoan, is a veteran teacher of creative writing and African American women’s literature. She is the author of Lot’s Daughters, a poetry collection that one reviewer described as “passionate slices of African American womanhood.” Her fiction and poetry have appeared in anthologies and journals, including the Boston Review; Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, Notre Dame Review, Connecticut Review, Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women’s Humor, and Homeplaces: Stories of the South by Women Writers.