Treasures, Both Personal and National

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Poet Ruth Forman encourages all of us to make a nomination of our own in her poem, "National Treasures."


Now poet Ruth Forman would like to make some nominations of her own.


Let us name our national treasures current as today's newspaper. Come let us name our national treasures, our uncles, our teachers, our lovers of the soul, much as we name our criminals, the ones so sui generis they urge our own uniqueness to seep through our pores. Us, little buds at the tips of our parents' fingers, reaching for a future they've never known.

This is the time to sing the name of just one person who'd make us want to see another day. Hear her words and know, through the burnings and lynchings and breaking bones of history on some plane carrying us through our days, everything's going to be all right.

I need my neighbor who I don't know very well to give me a treasure he hold dear to his heart. And if he have more, I will take them like promises. I am serious as tears rocking her baby's broken head on the sidewalk, serious as bullet shells in a blood dusky sky, serious as despair and as much cocaine snorted into hell. I'm serious, Mama, like chains.

I need me these treasures pinned on my walls with stick pins and tacks and bubble gum; need their pictures and scribbled names on any kind of paper, one from each person on my block, one put on Channel 9 every night. What she do, unsung and working overtime? What he do? Why should it be they only celebrated in heaven? We need to know them here. I need me names in buckets. Fill my hands with their lives and breathe it in like mint, like sage, like thyme in my hands. Need me the memories of each one in this city.

If you have a national treasure, give it to me. I have a national treasure. Roy Thomas, Sonia Sanchez, Anna Stevenson, Peter J. Harris, Afiya--those ones you know like the restless song of a river, they keep this world going and the babies alive. I need them in my life, need them all. Send them names to the LA Times. Conquer my shaking head and set it straight. Make me look for them in the street. That one--who will write the name of their national treasure on a slip of paper? We need to know them. I only wish that I could say it better.

SIEGEL: Poet Ruth Forman lives in Los Angeles.

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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