Nikky Finney writes poem to mark historic milestone

Nikky Finney, a National Book Award winner, South Carolina native and the John H. Bennett Jr. Chair in Southern Letters and Literature at UofSC wrote the following poem after South Carolina House members passed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. Upon Gov. Nikki Haley signing the bill, the flag was removed Friday (July 10) before a crowd of thousands. Finney's collected works of poetry include "Rice," "On Wings Made of Gauze" and "Head Off and Split." In writing this poem, Finney said, "I have been writing these 230 words all my life."


A New Day Dawns, by Nikky Finney

"It is the pearl blue peep of day. All night the Palmetto sky was seized with the aurora and alchemy of the remarkable. A blazing canopy of newly minted light fluttered in while we slept. We are not free to go on as if nothing happened yesterday, not free to cheer as if all our prayers have finally been answered today. We are free, only, to search the yonder of each other's faces, as we pass by, tip our hat, hold a door ajar, asking silently who are we now? Blood spilled in battle is two-headed: horror and sweet revelation. Let us put the cannons of our eyes away forever. Our one and only Civil War is done. Let us tilt, rotate, strut on. If we, the living, do not give our future the same honor as the sacred dead – of then and now – we lose everything. The gardenia air feels lighter on this new day, guided now by iridescent fireflies, those atom-like creatures of our hot summer nights, now begging us to team up and search with them for that which brightens every darkness. It will be just us again, alone, beneath the swirling indigo sky of South Carolina, working on the answer to our great day's question: Who are we now? What new human cosmos can be made of this tempest of tears, this upland of inconsolable jubilation? In all our lifetimes, finally, this towering undulating moment is here."

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