Finis Origine Pendet: African Burying Ground

L. Todd Hearon
January 23, 2024
sheet music

“a mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye”

When you planted me and mine

out of sight, so out of mind

it might have been a wilderness —

the frontiers of your consciousness

with chattel, paupers, criminals,

where wolves weave midnight hymnals

all winter with the howling waste —

circumscribed, you little guessed

how I would in time become

the center. I resemble Him,

the God you taught my kind to fear,

Whose radius is everywhere.

Very like a Master’s hand,

discriminating soil from sand:

men and what you would have called

mine. I doubt we have evolved.

Doubt we’ve ever left the cave.

What I was in life I have

remained: an inconvenience.

(But what’s the end of patience?)

When you lay your sewer line

up against my knuckled spine

needling my sleep, I rise

with voodoo in my eyeless eyes

troubling your theology.

And you will have to deal with me.


Editor’s Note: This poem is part of At This Point, a commemorative piece commissioned for the city of Portsmouth’s 400th anniversary celebration. The work, which premiered at the Music Hall in November 2023, featured a musical composition by Gregory Brown ’93, poetry by English Instructor L. Todd Hearon and narration by Dean of Students Russell Weatherspoon.