On Being Brought from Africa to America
‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
exceprt: An Address to Phillis Wheatley
Come, dear Phillis, be advised,
To drink Samaria’s flood;
There nothing that shall suffice
But Christ’s redeeming blood.
John iv. 13, 14.
While thousands muse with earthly toys;
And range about the street,
Dear Phillis, seek for heaven’s joys,
Where we do hope to meet.
Matth. vi. 33.
movement of time through the music of space,
eye hear a bell ringing blue in sentences,
the language spoken in sleep becomes an echo here,
a translation when written down on white paper,
in the air, when spoken, words seem like a dream
pulsating through ether in blue melodies of tongues
weaving inside sentences, packed with local
idioms, carved from blue spaces by human breath,
sounds rooted in voices here evoke metaphors
coursing blood-deep, form ancient tribal gestures,
where words fixed in geographic locations repeat
through reverberating memory, bring recognition
ricocheting through a collective truth, perhaps
then language can evoke a shared history,
music, when sentences mirror rhythms of tongues
poetry rises like suns birthing circles of love
Charlie Chaplin Impersonates a Poet
The stage is set for imminent disaster.
Here is the little tramp, standing
On a stack of books in order
To reach the microphone, the
Poet he’s impersonating somehow
Trussed and mumbling in a
Tweed bundle at his feet.
He opens his mouth: Tra-la!
Out comes doves, incandescent bulbs,
Plastic roses. Well, that’s that,
Squirms the young professor who’s
No more visiting poets!
His department head groans
For the trap door. As it
The tramp keeps on as if
Nothing has occurred,
A free arm mimicking
my swing is more mellow
these days: not the hardbop drive
i used to roll but more of a cool
foxtrot. my eyes still close
when the rhythm locks; i’ve learned
to boogie with my feet on the floor
i’m still movin’, still groovin’
still fallin’ in love
i bop to the bass line now. the trap set
paradiddles ratamacues & flams
that used to spin me in place still set me
off, but i bop to the bass line now
i enter the tune from the bottom up
& let trumpet & sax wheel above me
so don’t look for me in the treble
don’t look for me in the fly
staccato splatter of the hot young horn
no, you’ll find me in the nuance
hanging out in inflection & slur
i’m the one executing the half-bent
dip in the slow slowdrag
with the smug little smile
& the really cool shades
Liquid love affairs,
Wet, where was
And the promise
Of moving pictures,
A lit candle
In the window
Of our conscious minds.
Those who danced,
Pretending to swim
Did so out
Of pure allegiance.
Some wore snorkels
Of funky underwear,
Others wet suits
Clamped to their noses,
Black Power handshakes.
The strings attached
To our thangs were
Reeled into The Deep
And rhythmic as fins,
Schools of P signs
Flapped and waved
Under a groove.
No one held their breath
In the flashlit depth.
No one sank.
A Far Cry From Africa
A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
“Waste no compassion on these separate dead!”
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?
Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilization’s dawn
From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars
Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,
While he calls courage still that native dread
Of the white peace contracted by the dead.
Again brutish necessity wipes its hands
Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again
A waste of our compassion, as with Spain,
The gorilla wrestles with the superman.
I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
How can I turn from Africa and live?
Of Robert Frost
There is a little lightning in his eyes.
Iron at the mouth.
His brows ride neither too far up nor down.
He is splendid. With a place to stand.
Some glowing in the common blood.
Some specialness within.
One Wants a Teller in a Time Like This
One wants a teller in a time like this
One’s not a man, one’s not a woman grown
To bear enormous business all alone.
One cannot walk this winding street with pride
Knowing one knows for sure the way back home.
One wonders if one has a home.
One is not certain if or why or how.
One wants a Teller now:
Put on your rubbers and you won’t catch a cold
Here’s hell, there’s heaven. Go to Sunday School
Be patient, time brings all good things-(and cool
Strong balm to calm the burning at the brain?)
Love’s true, and triumphs; and God’s actual.