Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:
Here at the Dish we continuously post poems from a wide range of poets and eras, but February is Black History Month, and in this moment of such an extraordinary flowering of achievement among black poets in our country, presenting a slew of marvelous poems by writers in this tradition all throughout the month is happily irresistible.
This also gives us a chance to honor the book from which these poems are drawn, Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, edited by Charles Henry Rowell and praised by Edward Hirsch, poet, essayist, and President of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, as “the most thoroughly engaging and inclusive anthology of contemporary African American poetry to date.”
Our first selection is “Clay Bison in a Cave” by Clarence Major:
voiceless, even in a sense weightless,
in motion yet motionless still
for centuries and centuries,
stuck in this motion
of climbing, perhaps lost, these
two Paleolithic bison,
heads lifted, strained back
to the black endless sky,
as they climb toward sunny grass.
Which black sky? Which grass?
Rock-step by rock-step,
up they go, on up and up.
The black sky at the top of the cave.
The grass that is always
more a promise in a dream
than that sweet kiss
blown by water-colored wind.
(Reprinted from Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, edited by Charles Henry Rowell © 2013 by Charles Henry Rowell. Used by kind permission of Coffee House Press. Painting of a bison in the cave of Altamira, Spain, via Wikimedia Commons)