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Poetry Moment: Patricia Jabbeh Wesley and 'One Day'

Poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “One Day” by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is originally from Liberia, West Africa. She is the author of six books of poetry, including Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems, from which today’s poem is drawn. Since 2003, Jabbeh Wesley has lived in Pennsylvania, where she is a Professor of English at Penn State Altoona.

Following the title “One Day,” Jabbeh Wesley’s poem includes a line of dedication: “Love Song for the Newly Divorced.” This invites us to identify the speaker’s point of address throughout the poem, the “you” with whom they are in conversation, as anyone newly divorced. In this reading, the speaker embodies the wisdom of someone who has been where the newly divorced is now and can offer a hopeful vision of the future. The poem is a promise that they too will one day ‘mend’ and reclaim themselves. But there is another way to hear Jabbeh Wesley’s poem. The “you” could also be the speaker addressing themselves in the moment of divorce: out of necessity and in the midst of pain reminding themselves they will survive this fracturing. In Jabbeh Wesley’s hands, both readings remain vivid possibilities that signal the poem’s overriding tone. “One day” is a praise song, in which the poet is singing, sounding her faith in the healing that comes after great loss.


One Day

Love Song for the Newly Divorced

One day, you will awake from your covering
and that heart of yours will be totally mended,
and there will be no more burning within.
The owl, calling in the setting of the sun
and the deer path, all erased.
And there will be no more need for love
or lovers or fears of losing lovers
and there will be no more burning timbers
with which to light a new fire,
and there will be no more husbands or people
related to husbands, and there will be no more
tears or reason to shed your tears.
You will be as mended as the bridge
the working crew has just reopened.
The thick air will be vanquished with the tide
and the river that was corrupted by lies
will be cleansed and totally free.
And the rooster will call in the setting sun
and the sun will beckon homeward,
hiding behind your one tree that was not felled.

Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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