Pearl & Lee

A poem by Sean Hill.

 

Pearl Payne and Lee Pleasant Driver,

two of the few Negroes in Anaconda,

a smelter town, found each other. Lee,

the protected side of something—

sheltered and sheltering—a pleasant

place out of the wind and rain. A pearl

grows from the need to soothe pain

—nacre encases irritants to smooth

rough edges and results in a luster

we appreciate, worthy of the necks

of our adored if we can afford it.

Smelting, extracting the metal from rock

or ore, copper in this case (valued because

it carries a current and connects people)

requires heat and care. Lee Pleasant,

a former Buffalo Soldier, saw worth

in Pearl Payne, and she in him. He, born

at the end of the war, and she, a dozen

years later, who didn’t know slavery

but knew well what it meant to be

Black in a newly reconciled nation,

wed in that Western smelter town.

Born and raised in Milledgeville, Georgia, Sean Hill is the author of two poetry collections, Dangerous Goods (Milkweed Editions, 2014), awarded the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, and Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (UGA Press, 2008), named one of the Ten Books All Georgians Should Read in 2015 by the Georgia Center for the Book. He directs the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference at Bemidji State University. Hill lives in southwestern Montana with his family and is a professor of creative writing at the University of Montana. More information can be found at www.seanhillpoetry.com.

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