Reflections, by Willie T. Kearney Jr., is a book of gentle, rhyming poems about cultural history, love and family, and mortality.
The first poem, “Reflections,” places the speaker in the lineage of those who came to America on “a small ship, ill equipped, overflowing with Africans / Snatched from their place of birth, to be sold in a foreign land” and goes on to describe the struggles of those “demonstrating for Civil Rights/…their faces both dark and light.” Kearney ends the poem on a note of hope that, like other pieces, voices pride in racial identity: “When my children and others look into the mirror, I want them to see/ … the many that paved the way for them and me.”
Many poems reflect upon the swift passage of time, as in “Forever,” in which the speaker pines, “I thought that I would be forever / So I forgot the time / And play I did from dusk to dawn.” This poem benefits from its more specific later images (e.g. merry-go-round, rainbow), a facet missing from “Searching,” which tackles a similar theme, ending: “Taste [happiness] with my lips I did / And touched it with my soul // I pray some day I’ll find it / Before I grow too old.”
While most of the lines have a sing-songy feel to them, others have a mournful, blues-y rhythm: “When the bells toll for me for me / When the bells toll for me // My spirit will rise very so slowly / Leaving only a hollow shell.”
Readers will appreciate the patient, positive attitude of many of the pieces included here. However, the simple writing style and messages conveyed are not particularly original and the rhyme scheme sometimes forces awkward phrasing (“When I say I love you/ Turn not yourself away…”). As a result, the verse isn’t likely to appeal to fans of sophisticated poetry, though it may find an audience among those who seek accessible work and the reflective mode that comes with age.