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


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.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →