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Poet's Moment: Sharan Strange, 'Offering'

Ms. SHARAN STRANGE (Writer): My name is Sharan Strange and this is my poem "Offering."

(Reading) `In the dream, I am burning the rice. I am cooking for God. I will clean the house to please him, so I wash the dishes and it begins to burn. It is for luck, like rice pelting newlyweds; raining down, it is another veil or an offering that suggests her first duty, to feed him.

`Burning, it turns brown, the color of my father, whom I never pleased. Too late, I stand at his bed calling. He is swathed in twisted sheets, a heavy mummy that will not eat or cry. Will he sleep when a tall stranger comes to murder me? Will I die this fourth time or the next? When I run, it is as if under water, slow, sluggish as the swollen rains rising out of the briny broth to fill the pot, evicting the steam in low shrieks like God's breath sucked back in.

`Before I slip the black husk of sleep, I complete the task. The rice chars, crumbles to dust, to mix with the salty water, to begin again.'

I wrote the poem "Offering" upon waking up from a dream. And the poem deals with the complicated relationship that I had with my father and the imagery in the poem concerns the series of nightmares that I had following my father's death. In a way, I defied my father by leaving home early and striking out and seeking my own independence. Ultimately, I became something that my father never imagined me being, and that's an artist. So I think of the poem as a tribute to the creative process. But I also feel that the poem was a step towards forgiving my father and healing that disconnection that we had.

ED GORDON, host:

That was our Poet's Moment, this time with writer Sharan Strange. She's a professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta. Her collection of poems is titled "Ash." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sharan Strange