Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez

“Where is our beautiful fire that gave light to the world?”

Sonia Sanchez
Photo: C.B. Claiborne, 2004

Sonia Sanchez is a poet, activist, playwright, editor, and teacher. From 1969 to the 1994, she authored eight books of poems including Homecoming (1969), We A BaddDDD People (1970), A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women (1974), homegirls & handgrenades (1984), and Under a Soprano Sky (1987). A recipient of numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Award, the 1985 American Book Award, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities for 1988, the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women International League for Peace and Freedom in 1989, and the Pew Fellowship in the Arts for her outstanding literary achievement. Sanchez has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, China, Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean. She held the Laura Carnal Chair in English and was a Presidential Fellow at Temple University for many years until her retirement in 1999. Since the 1994 conference, Sanchez has continued to publish works, such as Wounded in the House of a Friend (1997), Does Your House Have Lions? (1998), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums: Love Poems (1999), and Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (2000). She was also awarded the Robert Frost Medal in 2001 and the Wallace Stevens Award in 2018.

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For Sister Gwen Brooks

you tell the stars
don’t be jealous of her light
you tell the ocean,
you call out to Olukun,
to bring her always to
safe harbor,
for she is a holy one
this woman twirling
her emerald lariat
you tell the night
to move gently
into morning so she’s
not startled,
you tell the morning
to ease her into a water
fall of dreams
for she is a holy one
restringing her words
from city to city
so that we live and
breathe and smile and
breathe and love and
breathe her...
this Gwensister called life.

Published version from Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums (1998).

Catch the Fire

(Sometimes I wonder:
What to say to you now
in the soft afternoon air as you
hold us all in a single death?)
I say—
Where is your fire?
I say—
Where is your fire?
You got to find it and pass it on.

You got to find it and pass it on
from you to me from me to her from her
to him from the son to the father from the
brother to the sister from the daughter to
the mother from the mother to the child.

Where is your fire?  I say where is your fire?
Can’t you smell it coming out of our past?
The fire of living…not dying
The fire of loving…not killing
The fire of Blackness…not gangster shadows.
Where is our beautiful fire that gave light
to the world?
The fire of pyramids;
The fire that burned through the holes of
slaveships and made us breathe;

The fire that made guts into chitterlings;
The fire that took rhythms and made jazz;

The fire of sit-ins and marches that made
us jump boundaries and barriers;
The fire that took street talk sounds
and made righteous imhotep raps.
Where is your fire, the torch of life
full of Nzingha and Nat Turner and Garvey
and DuBois and Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin
and Malcolm and Mandela.
Sister/Sistah  Brother/Brotha  Come/Come

Catch the fire and burn with eyes
that see our souls:
Hey.  Brother/Brotha.  Sister/Sista.
Here is my hand.
Catch the fire…and live.

I Have Walked a Long Time

i have walked a long time
much longer than death that splinters
wid her innuendos
my life, ah my alien life,
is like an echo of nostalgia
bringen blue screens to bury clouds
rinsen wite stones stretched among the sea.

                 you, man, will you remember me when I die?
                 you will stare and stain my death and say
                 i saw her dancen among swallows
                 far from the world’s obscenities?
                 you, man, will you remember and cry?

and I have not loved.
while the body prowls
the soul catalogues each step;
while the unconscious unbridles feasts
the flesh knots toward the shore.
ah, I have not loved
wid legs stretched like stalks against sheets
wid stomachs drained the piracy of oceans
wid mouths discarden the gelatin
to shake the sharp self.
i have walked by memory of others
between the blood night
and twilights
i have lived in tunnels
and fed the bloodless fish;
between the yellow rain
and ash,
i have heard the rattle
of my seed,
so time, like some pearl necklace embracen
a superior whore, converges
and the swift spider binds my breast.

                 you, man, will you remember me when I die?
                 will you stare and stain my death and say
                 i saw her applauden suns
                 far from the grandiose audience? 
                 you, man, will you remember and cry?