South Carolina-born poet Nikky Finney wrote ‘A New Day Dawns’ in the early morning hours of July 9, after House members voted to send Gov. Nikki Haley a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, realizing “I have been writing these 230 words all my life.”
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.
9 July, 2015
About Nikky Finney
The poem on the front page of The State was written by South Carolina poet Nikky Finney.
Finney grew up in the state, “within listening distance of sea,” the daughter of Ernest Finney, the state’s first African-American chief justice who began his public service career as a civil rights attorney.
After working 20 years in Kentucky, Finney returned to South Carolina in 2013 to become the USC’s John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Southern Letters and Literature.
Finney has written several books of poetry, including “Rice,” “On Wings Made of Gauze” and “Head Off and Split,” which was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry.
She wrote the poem in the early morning hours of July 9, after House members voted to send Gov. Nikki Haley a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, realizing “I have been writing these 230 words all my life.”