Knopf Poem-a-Day: April 7, Kevin Young’s “Choir (Dusk)”

Kevin Young’s Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels tells the famous story of the African slaves illegally sold in Havanna in 1839, their mutiny on ship, their subsequent imprisonment and eventual freedom. We hear a range of voices and types of verbal music in what becomes an epic telling; the piece below comes from the book’s “Witness” section, which is in the form of a libretto spoken/sung by Cinque, the rebellion’s leader

Choir (Dusk)

Such sailing—
a wind carrying

us where.
The day steers east

toward the rising

and at night we drift
against the day.

Make it plain—

Mornings I miss
my life the most—

All night I’m back
among the living—

what may be
my dead

since I’ve left—
stolen west—

Mornings I miss
my life—

my beloved’s hands,
our children near-grown.

Or, grown
no more.

Morning’s a thin bed—

if, can call this cold
cell, straw floor, a bed.

Here, men dissect
the night sky like the dead

& map our heads
with the dark & stars.

My stomach like
they say of leaves—

Some nights I want
to walk home cross
wide water

Others only to join
the shifting choir

of the closest river.

Listen to Kevin Young read this poem on the Knopf Tumblr.

Learn more about Kevin Young’s Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels and browse other titles by Kevin Young.

Excerpt from ARDENCY © 2011 by Kevin Young. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

To share the poem-a-day experience with friends, pass along this link>>