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Carrie Mae Weems / MATRIX 176

Poem

Between the two worlds
I was with you but as
the wind on the Caspian Sea

I was with you in the
ancient ruins of time
you rode me hobby-horse
into the age of revolution, remember?

I was with you when you stormed the Bastille
& the Winter Palace

And I was with you for that great and
hideous mise en scene
they call the middle passage

One potato, two potato, three potato, four
& in Ireland too

Out of the shadows
from the edge of the new world
I saw your slow persistent emergence
and I saw you spinning jenny's cotton into gold

& Early one October while
sailing by the steps of Odessa
I saw Eisenstein mounting them two at a time
and at the very top was Mahalia
singing beautifully
the internationale

High above and far beyond the toll of bells
I heard the silence of your fall
in the empty spaces of Spain
There were no castanets and no guitars
only Hemingway and then later, David, for
I was with you in the death camps
shaved head and all
beating the drummers drum
shaking in my boots


I was with you
on the Longest March
and in Cuba & Timbukktu

I was with you in Santiago
attempting to block
an assassin's bullet
and again in Harlem
cradling Malcolm
to my bosom
crying

Throughout the course of my existence
& I have been here always
I saw everlasting death
& the endless
weeping of women

I saw you and your father
your mother &
all your sisters
frozen static in
the autumn
of the patriarch

I saw your fear of pleasure
saw you mistaking sexuality for sensuality
& I saw you fragment your own body
into a zillion pieces

I saw men and women locked in a futile
struggle for power & I saw the
declining
significance
of race

I saw your hands replaced
by inventions
that left you idle
no laurel surrounding
your name
no marker to mark
your existence

I saw nor heard any mention of
working class you
& you said little
and you did even less

In the halls of justice
I spied some of you robbing
the coffers of church & state
smashing the piggy-banks
using the shards
to pick your teeth

I too felt the allure
of temptations temptress
and in no time flat
saw my own greed
my own corrupt hand
in the pot

Duped by the slickest slicksters
I saw you buying smoke-filled bottles
& I knew that you'd buy the whole kit and kaboodle

Lost for a time
I saw you moving through
the shadowy corridors of
an ageless labyrinth
wondering when and where
it would all end

From the four corners of the world
I saw you
bewildered
startled & stumbling
toward the next century
looking over your shoulder
with fingers crossed

From the ruins of what was and what will be
I saw your longing
felt your pain and
tried to comfort you

Afraid for you
I swooped down from my hiding
place, kissed your brow and left
a bag of square shouldered courage at your side

But in the midst of the storm
trumpets blared
& from the top of Tatlin's monument
Stanley waved the white flag of surrender
Lorna turned her head not once but twice
& Belle hooked us all
intoning a constant refrain

go on

& dear Felix, beautiful and exhausted
blew us a long, red, beaded kiss of farewell

In the twilight coming on a day without end
Anna traced the tracks of your tears
& I could see again the coming of Spring's hope
in the May flowers of
May Day's
long
forgotten

Ritual & Revolution was organized in cooperation with The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, Marion Boulton Stroud, Founder and Artistic Director; and Mary Jane Jacob, Consulting Curator. The installation has been made possible in part through support from the Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals and Exhibitions, a public/private partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, the United States Information Agency, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with administrative support from Arts International, a division of the Institute of International Education. Special thanks to Mary Jane Jacob and Jeanne Hoel, and to Scott Catto of P.P.O.W. Gallery, for their assistance.

The presentation of Ritual & Revolution in Berkeley is made possible by the Phyllis Wattis Matrix Fund, a grant from the LEF Foundation, and the generosity of Penny Cooper and Rena Rosenwasser.