Every Atom | No. 88

Afaa Michael Weaver

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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Indian Pond, New Hampshire. Summer 1985. At night the mailbox marking the uphill dirt road to the farmhouse was difficult to see, and the turn from the road to the pathway leading to the house itself even more difficult to discern, but in the light of day, there it was, a colonial farmhouse built before the American Revolution by a man who fought the British. It had a central fireplace with three hearths, while at the front door there were yellow lilacs. 


The lilac bushes like sentinels guard the memory of that changing of worlds for me, a gigantic shift that lifted me out of my life as a worker poet in Baltimore to being the summer artist resident for Catrina, an elderly woman who owned this place. It was the shifting and changing of my life where I had assumed so much and had no idea of how few shared my assumptions. At Indian Pond, I rested for the summer after spending the spring in Europe. Leaving Baltimore, I wanted to move in ways the factory would never allow. After Indian Pond I headed to Providence to begin studying in Brown’s writing program.


When it came time to trim the lilacs, I did so ever so slightly, careful not to cut away what could not mend itself and be reborn, or burst out again in the bright sun.  It’s the way I remember that time and how I changed the structure of my life, rearranging the dramaturgy, the ribbons of the New England skyline shifting in the evening as I looked out over the fields of blackberries at the highway in the distance, lights from distant travelers following the lines in the roads. 


We are pruned away so we can be born again, over and again until time ends.


With every leaf a miracle—and and from this bush in the dooryard,

With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

A sprig with its flower I break.

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Afaa Michael Weaver is a poet with 14 books in publication and the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Kingsley Tufts Award, and a Pew Fellowship. 


Cover art by Samantha Schmiesing