Highway 80 towards White Hall, Alabama. Photo by Danielle Purifoy.

Daddy’s Hymn

Daddy moaned a hymn in his dream. Its name I cannot say,
but the notes will never escape my ears

I cannot say for sure where the Atlantic begins
or ends, or how the water bends to the earth’s womb,
why sandcastles are consumed, collapse
into themselves as the tide drags, why the stern
of a warship muscles through ocean currents,
capsizes, rolls beneath the very thing that lifted it.
How the moon pulls the river as the wings of a swan
pull the sky, how the sun opens the spirit, brings a forest
to its knees, I don’t know. I don’t know the length of Saturn,
the texture of the clouds up there, or how the violet suspends
stars without strings, emancipates the rain.

But when I was a boy, I watched my grandfather
at the table, sleeping or praying, his head bowed
like the sail of a boat rolled in the blue. Behind the partition
my small frame swayed like a metronome atop a piano,
the curtains, still, above my head, a sun shower
beating on the window.
Daddy moaned a hymn in his dream. Its name I cannot say,
but the notes will never escape my ears like the cry of one's own child.
I will never forget the peace that washed over him, me.
The cadence of his breath swooshed like the Atlantic on the shore.

I don't know why the shell of the earth
cannot contain the sea, or why man's bones
cannot cage his soul, but I do know that he is a martyr
to himself for the sake of the hymn he will one day sing
for his children's children--an homage
to something greater than the sea,
greater than humanity,
greater than the stars.

  • About

    Derwin Sisnett is the managing partner of Rethink Community, a social impact investment fund that provides capital for real estate assets collectively centered on education, housing, healthcare, and the workforce. Derwin is also the founder and managing partner of Maslow Development Inc., a not-for-profit real estate development company that designs and develops communities around high performing schools. Derwin earned a BA in Psychology from Emory University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University.