On Meta Warrick Fuller’s Talking Skull (1939)


“What brought you here?”—The Talking Skull, African Folktale

Like Job, he kneels, hands placed before him on the ground—
The length of earth from which a skull peers, like a mound,
Up at him, grinning, as a plagency resounds
From their expressions which my eye’s white space surrounds.
In this space, history is rendered as a chain
Where he is held, like me, to circle his own pain
In the skull’s frame by asking what he cannot know—
Caught in the curve of words that hold, that will not grow,
From his lips, sculpted out of bronze, mine out of stone.
Now, stone cries out to stone and blood cries out to bone.
But, in the onyx of a photograph, we find
Two black forms speaking through these masterful, designed,
Bronze frames. In this space, history is rendered lame,
And I can answer, by this craft, how these forms came.

Michael Brown lives in the Bronx. He is a student at the Bard at BPL Microcollege in Brooklyn, and his work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Hopkins Review, and elsewhere. He works as a Library Page at the Schomburg Center’s Manuscript and Rare Books Division in Harlem.