Deep Image

I am haunted by a chance sighting I had a few months back of a tall black man walking down a local street in the WV panhandle. His complexion and features were striking: he had the angular nose and pronounced cheekbones of an Indian and a skin color that was the richest tone I’ve ever seen: a dark chocolate mixed with a red almost like dry blood.  He struck me as both dignified and totally unexpected, and then I realized that somehow he was emblematic of the area where I live.

I did not meet or speak with him;  I could not really have said anything at the time.

There is something of the deep image or metaphor about this chance encounter. Volumes were divulged in a few seconds, and so I hesitate to write a poem or rely on inspiration in dealing with such a profound subject. Something of the hope for true healing in this country seemed to lie in him, a perspective that is everywhere and yet always just out of sight. So here is a tentative first written response to this moment in prose, a conjecture only. Wish me luck in conveying something of this epiphany:

Dominic Passeul walked down Canal Street amid apricot blossoms. Evening was drawing on, and shadows disguised the tall man’s face as he moved easily past the clapboard houses and brick storefronts towards the bridge over the canal’s waters glinting in streetlight. This was as he wanted it: despite  his overwhelming presence–dark, red-brown complexion, size, nervous energy–he had learned how to slip into the background as a buck hides in the trees or a woman conceals her body behind fabric. But this was more than survival: Passeul was an observer, a listener, a deep actor.

“Hey, Passels!” rang through the air, bringing him up short. It was Asani standing on the wrap-around porch of the Blues and Gravy, the best music gig in town. “Where’s the violin?” “Just piano, tonight.” Passeul replied.

***

Photo: Portrait, WPA art; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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  1. poetjena
    April 15, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I begin to get a sense of the mood here, those small but all too critical, intricate details…

    A lovely beginning.

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