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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Woman in an Abstract Field - After Beauford Delaney

By Sojourner Ahébée

A rising junior at Stanford University, Sojourner Ahébée is an award-winning poet. I asked her to write a poem about a Beauford Delaney work that she found particularly inspiring. "Woman in an Abstract Field - After Beauford Delaney" is the result.

Untitled (Woman in an Abstract Field)
(1966) Oil monotype, with hand-painted additions in oil,
on cream wove paper
Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator


which is to say open hole where the light fell in

in other words, let us lose our hands here
let us always be what grows --
                                    the sunflower, the pink hands of the hibiscus --

they say field could also mean

                                    carried out in the natural environment, 
                                    rather than in a laboratory

which is to say you were a field this morning when the Black woman tapped your back and you didn’t flinch
not from the touch, not from the small request of a few coins as Guadeloupe bloomed off her tongue
though someone who loved you a lot once said don’t stop for anyone in this city… 
that’s an invitation

sometimes a field comes with the intent to kill,
Blossoming yellow all over your face and nose

In other words, field artillery is made light as a brush stroke

like there are days you are a woman in a field, a woman walking through a weapon --

                                                                                              perhaps a field of gas

You close your eyes in the heat of the hammam one morning
a woman is rubbing lavender oil down your back
She has just called you out of your name
                                                                                     ma belle, she said
who was this woman you did not know,
who called you beauty with all the intention in her voice
as she slid the oil behind your ears, around a swollen thigh?

Like, it’s hard in this city, how the woman in the metro
walked right through you, how if you weren't there the
black woman would have had to lug her baby’s stroller
all those flights of stairs, how to everyone else she was
not there, how the man by the river actually
thought he could just touch you, how every time they kill
You it looks really small

                                                  ma belle
Was is her miraculous sight of you? Her use of the possessive, like you all belonged to each other and the beauty being named? Or just the shape of her mouth when as said MA,
Like is that the open hole where the light fell in, like let her mouth always be a field -- that thing that gives


Sojourner Ahébée is a 2016 BOSP Continuation International Fellow for the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. She is currently serving as the Paris intern for the Wells International Foundation.

Read more of Sojourner's work at Sojourner Ahébée.

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