ISSUE No. 6

Clerestory

A clerestory is a window which allows light and air into the body of an old building. Clerestory Magazine stories and storytellers are like windows through which the pain and beauty of the human experience shine.

The Clerestory Podcast S1 E25

The Oklahoma Tenant Farmer and Me
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She Was Invisible

Thrown into a boat to be tossed
between two worlds/
far from home at age seven/
mind and body malnourished/
she was awash in the universal sea,
nameless until she reached a new
and strange land.

Soon precociously fluent in a new language,
she crafted adolescent feelings into delicately
bold images
that still stretch beyond eighteenth century barriers.

Meetings with American statesmen
and a President-in-waiting
failed to find her poems
in books
that her overbearing contemporary society
would deign to publish,
although they would read them with awe
once published by the soon-hated British.

Phillis Wheatley’s legacy:
that generations to come will cherish and find
the empathetic gems of her eternal mind.

*

Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa, sold into slavery, and bought by a Boston family, the Wheatleys, in 1761. Susannah Wheatley soon realized the incredible facility that Phillis had to learn languages. She loved writing poetry the most, even having a poem she wrote to George Washington published in the Pennsylvania Magazine. A collection of her poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was publised in London in 1773.

Featured image from the Radcliffe Institute.

Bill Chatfield is a board member of Peterborough Folk Music Society and founder of Peterborough Poetry Project. He is a retired postal classification specialist and philosopher.

Discover more from Bill Chatfield.