24 August 2010
by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Tuesday's Chile, Poetry Editor
We are not born American, anymore than we are born Christian, Muslim or Jew. We are not born a Hindu or a Jain, a Sikh or an Atheist. We are not born French, Ugandan, Chinese or Uzbek. We may become those things in time, but at birth, we are from Dust. When we die, we become Dust. Can anyone really, with the naked eye, divide one particle of Dust from another? Can our differences be so great that those differences are easily made out in a maelstrom of particles dusted across the Universe? What does it mean then, to be American? To be French or Ugandan? To be Chinese or Uzbek? What does it mean to be a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew? A Hindu or a Jain? A Sikh or an Atheist? Human ego, small-minded bigotry or national identity might demand that we are special; the few among the many. But as it was in the Beginning, so it shall be in the End; we are nothing more than...
And who shall separate the dust
What later we shall be:
Whose keen discerning eye will scan
And solve the mystery?
The high, the low, the rich, the poor,
The black, the white, the red,
And all the chromatique between,
Of whom shall it be said:
Here lies the dust of Africa;
Here are the sons of Rome;
Here lies the one unlabelled,
The world at large his home!
Can one then separate the dust?
Will mankind lie apart,
When life has settled back again
The same as from the start?
-- Georgia Douglas Johnson
(On Starlight and Fire, Keck Observatory Mauna Kea, Hawai’i / copyright Justice Putnam)