Pinkie Gordon Lane

Pinkie Gordon Lane

“Life is a continuum, it’s moving on.”

Pinkie Gordon
Photo: C.B. Claiborne, 1994

The first Black woman to receive a doctorate from Louisiana State University in 1956 and the first Black Poet Laureate of Louisiana, Pinkie Gordon Lane garnered multiple awards and praise throughout her career. A Professor Emerita of English at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lane was inducted into the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame, cited for her work as an educator, poet, and humanist by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English. Some of her poetic works include Wind Thoughts (1972), The Mystic Female (1978), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1979, I Never Scream: New and Selected Poems (1985), and Girl at the Window (1991). Lane’s work has appeared in Callaloo, Journal of Black Poetry, Ms. Magazine, Negro American Literature Forum, Nimrod, Obsidian, The Black Scholar and The Southern Review. She retired from Southern University in 1986, and continued to write until her death in 2008.

Midnight Song

If I were sitting
on the banks of the river
I would write poems
about seaweed or flotsam 
making their way 
to the end of the sea
or the expanse of the bridge 
that falls into the sky

If a flight to nowhere
curled waves of air
beneath my feet
or framed my vision, a poem
would draw images
from wings of the jet
filling corners of clouds

But my blue room—
where I die each night—
frames this poem
The curtain is striped
blue on white
the walls the color
of twilight just before death 
of the sun
and the doors pale
as the morning sky

And so I write
a blue-room poem
My mind penetrates walls
and hangs like mist
on the wake of trees 
swaying low over the town

Only the crickets know
I am there, and they
sing songs
to the low-touching wind
wind	Only they
will know 
I have passed over the earth
gathering periwinkles
and ivy
to take to the hills

This poem plants itself
and grows like the jasmine 
coating my fence
It creeps over the page
like holly fern
and bores into the depths
of my mind like the wild palm 
that sentinels my yard’s 
center, spreading fanlike 
at all points
caught up in a web
of light—
a ring of gold 
painting the earth 

Girl at the Window

She sits there, 
hand on cheek, head 
turned towards the open window
where shadows pulsate 
like quivering beasts

Summer and autumn 
contend in blue skies,
and spiraling air—
ghosts and green light
a mere breath touching

A golden animal streaks 
across space
and lavender hills outline 
the rim

Will they tell 
the level of seasons?
Will they fly home
to the sky? 

	Her skin is copper-toned
	and eyes the nests
	of birds 	She
	dreams of Nairobi 
	and wildebeests 

	the equator a blue line
	slung in midair