Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess is the author of Olio, which received the 2017 Tyehimba Jess headshot
Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He is also author of Leadbelly, which won the 2004 National Poetry Series and was named one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005” by The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review. Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a 2004-2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. His honors include a a 2000 – 2001 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry, the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, a 2006 Whiting Fellowship, and a 2016 Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. Jess is Poetry and Fiction Editor of African American Review and Associate Professor of English at College of Staten Island.

Blind Boone’s Vision

When I got old enough
I asked my mother,
to her surprise,
to tell me what she did
with my eyes. She balked
and stalled, sounding
unsure for the first time
I could remember.
It was the tender way
she held my face
and kissed where tears
should have rolled
that told me I’d asked
of her the almost impossible—
to recount my blinding
tale, to tell what became
of the rest of me.
She took me by the hand
and led me to a small
sapling that stood not
much taller than me.
I could smell the green
marrow of its promise
reaching free of the soil
like a song from Earth’s
royal, dirty mouth.
Then Mother told me
how she, newly freed,
had prayed like a slave
through the night when
the surgeon took my eyes
to save my fevered life,
then got off her knees
come morning to take
the severed parts of me
for burial—right there
beneath that small tree.
They fed the roots,
climbed through its leaves
to soak in sunlight . . .
and so, she told me,
can see.

From OLIO (Wave Books, 2016)

Continue reading “Blind Boone’s Vision” on The Poetry Foundation’s website.