Dear Readers: At the end of this week's post is an audio recording of the post. This is something that I hope will become a regular feature. If you cannot listen to the audio over email, visit www.darianduckworth.com/musings
As a creative writing student, I learned that one of the best ways to explore mystery was to write poetry. When I arrived in Natchez, Mississippi, for my first pastoral appointment, a lot of mystery awaited me. There were people to meet, roads to learn, stories to hear. Add to those generic unknowns the fact that Natchez is an old town that thrives on telling its history. Where there is a long history, there are also great mysteries. Where there are great mysteries, there are a lot of poems to write, especially about this river town I called, "home," for five years.
The following piece is the result of such an excavation. One evening in 2010, I watched the sun set over the Mississippi river and was in awe of its beauty. When I looked around to talk with other witnesses, I realized that I was alone. But a nearby bar was full of people, most with their backs to the sky. The contrast stuck with me, so I drafted a poem about the experience. The poem was also an opportunity to process the distress I heard regularly from the town's residents: joy over a prosperous past and concern over an uncertain future. The pastor and the poet meet in moments like these.
As always, thank you for reading and listening with me, friends. Let us also write together as we reflect on the mysteries of our places, ourselves, and our God.
all good things to each of you,
Set apart by bluff and history,
Sketched by local tongue.,
Steeped in south-bound currents,
Enclosed by name
Is a grid of one-way streets.
A city and a town,
This puzzled place
Stirs and sleeps and sleeps and stirs.
The town groans of a life long ago:
Seemingly better, Seemingly brighter.
The city laments
Darkened windows of empty houses
Shadowed by long-ago war.
Inside heavy-doored bars
The dust of the earth sit with backs to the sky.
They neglect a dusk
Where the sun does not set
But eases pink into the clouds
The way you slip into a hammock:
The light does not depart.