National Poetry Month Day 4: “Sawed-Through Link” by Marilyn Nelson

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Marilyn Nelson, today’s featured poet, wrote a series of ghazals to accompany some images by illustrator Philippe Lardy, who gave us permission to include a copy of the painting which inspired Nelson’s poem.

Sawed-Through Link

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Sawed Through Link

For generations chained by what one should, or can’t, think,
like our Ancestors, we must find the sawed-through link.

The chained dog moans in his sleep in front of the dog house,
even his dreams blind to the gap in one sawed-through link.

Hold onto the chains; revere them. They are history.
Understand how freedom was reached through one sawed-through link.

Here on our island we have struggled, restored balance.
Tourists walk around unaware of each sawed-through link.

Cheering, we pulled down statues, threw chains into the sea.
But nothing says freedom better than a sawed-through link.

Dear Vastness I think to, Big Bang, Maker of life’s chain,
thanks for the lightness of being just a sawed-through link.

We didn’t realize, as we built higher towers,
that a chain is only as strong as its sawed-through link.

One time I found a gold watch in the sand at the beach.
That’s life: a diamond on a chain with a sawed-through link.

-Marilyn Nelson

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Marilyn Nelson is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut and the founder and director of Soul Mountain Retreat. She was poet laureate of the State of Connecticut from 2001-2006.

Philippe Lardy is an illustrator and painter. He co-publishes “GIN & COMIX” with Jose Ortega, inspired by RAW magazine, bringing together an international showcase of artists.


From time to time, The Rumpus publishes new poems. Check out this multimedia collection of poetry we've published. More from this author →