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2005 Cave Canem Poetry Prize

Galleycat reports today that Constance Quarterman Bridges won the 2005 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for Lions Don’t Eat Us. Everyone at OUP offers her our hearty congratulations!

The following poem by Ms. Bridges was published in The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry edited by Arnold Rampersad.

Gordian Knot

“Great-grandfather Fray was a white man.
He went to another Virginia county to get
grandpa, Albert (his own mixed son) a wife.
He wanted a dark-skin woman because
grandpa looked white.” Aunt Edna

Old man Fray always matched his mules
precisely like fitted pieces of a puzzle.
The horses at the mill were perfect pairs.
So it was not too far for him to travel
from his valley over blue mountains
to a distant Virginia county
where Randolph slaves were darker,

with molasses colored Dahomey skin,
African kinked hair and mahogany eyes.
He wanted to untie the weave
of the Gordian Knot, complicatd
tangle he had created, with the issue
of silk-haired Albert, his son,
too fair to hide among the varied blacks.

The journey was apology or shame.
But cut or unwoven, the knotted
weave leaves kinks too deep
to hide or smooth away. Great-grandma,
Rhoda, the woman old man Fray found,
opulent with African genes, richly colored
the complex threads of our generations.

“Gordian Knot” by Constance Quarterman Bridges. Reprinted from Potomac Review (1999) by permission of Constance Quarterman Bridges.

Recent Comments

  1. Ebony

    Hi Aunt Connie,

    First how are you doing? I hope good, I’m doing good myself. “Congratulations on the Cave Canem Poetry Prize!” I seen that this was a blog of some sort so i decided to write you. The Gordian Knot is… very deep and I can truly appreciate the her/history you dug up for us. Our generation of the family practically know nothing about our GREAT MOTHERS & FATHERS, so Thank you, I’ll now pass it around. To be in brief as much as possible, again Thank you and much Congratulations!

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