Poem: Kwansabas for Luda

Mar 15, 2015 by Bethel Swift, in Poetry , Form & Free Poems

You are not a safe memory,
but a live wire dancing in the rain.
I mark my age, not in winters,
but in years spent without dear you.
I am, because you believe in me.
Babushka Wisdom, you lent my life meaning.
My mentor, mother, friend, you were more—

with your sweet silent grace, earnest faith—
my fate was forever changed by yours.
Your love, kept me safe.
Your strength, gave me hope.
Your smile, such peace.
Your laugh, Auntie, if I could only paint it—
such bold colors would shame sorrow—

bring back to us your joy.
I would trade all, for just this:
to see your face and feel again the strong,
sure press of your hand; to tell you stories;
see your eyes come alive with pure delight and beauty;
to share a mint, glass of Champagne
and always to wish, “Happy New Year!”

Kwansabas for Luda
One of my favorite photos
of Luda, years before I met
her, but the smile is the same.

This poem is part of a larger project that I am working on to honor the life of Dr. Ludmilla Finkelstein. The Kwansaba is an African American poetry form based on the seven principles of the Kwanzaa celebration. Typically a praise song, the form (seven lines of seven or fewer words with seven or fewer letters in each word) was invented in the 1990s. This poem contains three Kwansabas written in October 2013, while studying at Kennedy King College, under Professor Martha Vertreace-Doody. I am posting it today, to mark the anniversary of Luda's birth (March 19, 1913).