opal edited.jpg

Opal Moore photo: Marie Thomas

Once,Upon 

    For Deanna Sirlin’s To Be and Been To

(a poem in two parts)

by 

Opal Moore

one

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.

                                                                                                    What    

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

                                                                                                    unbitten,

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

                                                                                                    world

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

                                                                                                    quick.

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

                                                                                                   fragments.

two

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.

01_To Be.jpg

Deanna Sirlin, To Be, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 60 inches

07_Been To.jpg

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.