Friday, February 24, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Countee Cullen

A Brown Girl Dead
by Countee Cullen

With two white roses on her breasts,
White candles at head and feet,
Dark Madonna of the grave she rests;
Lord Death has found her sweet.

Her mother pawned her wedding ring
To lay her out in white;
She'd be so proud she'd dance and sing
to see herself tonight.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Lucille Clifton

shapeshifter poems
by Lucille Clifton


the legend is whispered
in the women's tent
how the moon when she rises
follows some men into themselves
and changes them there
the season is short
but dreadful shapeshifters
they wear strange hands
they walk through the houses
at night their daughters
do not know them


who is there to protect her
from the hands of the father
not the windows which see and
say nothing not the moon
that awful eye not the woman
she will become with her
scarred tongue who who who the owl
laments into the evening who
will protect her this prettylittlegirl


if the little girl lies
still enough
shut enough
hard enough
shapeshifter may not
walk tonight
the full moon may not
find him here
the hair on him


the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow the one
she cannot tell the one
there is no one to hear this poem
is a political poem is a war poem is a
universal poem but is not about
these things this poem
is about one human heart this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

Saturday, February 18, 2012

29 days of Black poets - James A. Emanuel

For A Depressed Woman
by James A. Emanuel

My friends do not know.
But what could my friends not know?
About what? What friends?

She sleeps late each day,
stifling each reason to rise,
choked into the quilt.

"I'll never find work."
She swallows this thought with pills,
finds tears in the glass.

29 days of Black poets - Robert Hayden

Full Moon
by Robert Hayden

No longer throne of a goddess to whom we pray,
no longer the bubble house of childhood's
tumbling Mother Goose man,

The emphatic moon ascends--
the brilliant challenger of rocket experts,
the white hope of communications men.

Some I love who are dead
were watchers of the moon and knew its lore;
planted seeds, trimmed their hair,

Pierced their ears for gold hoop earrings
as it waxed or waned.
It shines tonight upon their graves.

And burned in the garden of Gethsemane,
its light made holy by the dazzling tears
with which it mingled.

And spread its radiance on the exile's path
of Him who was The Glorious One,
its light made holy by His holiness.

Already a mooted goal and tomorrow perhaps
an arms base, a livid sector,
the full moon dominates the dark.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Etheridge Knight

Feeling Fucked Up
by Etheridge Knight

Lord she's gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs--

Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcom fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

29 days of Black poets - Imamu Amiri Baraka

Ka 'Ba
by Imamu Amiri Baraka

A closed window looks down
on a dirty courtyard, and black people
call across or scream or walk across
defying physics in the stream of their will

Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone's
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air

We are beautiful people
with african imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants

with african eyes, and noses, and arms,
though we sprawl in grey chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.

We have been captured,
brothers. And we labor
to make our getaway, into
the ancient image, into a new

correspondence with ourselves
and our black family. We read magic
now we need the spells, to rise up
return, destroy, and create. What will be

the sacred words?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Jericho Brown

Langston Blue  
by Jericho Brown

"O Blood of the River of songs,
O songs of the River of Blood,"
Let me lie down. Let my words

Lie sound in the mouths of men
Repeating their invocations pure
And perfect as the moans that

Mount in the mouth of Bessie Smith.
Blues for the angels kicked out
Of heaven. Blues for the angels

Who miss them still. Blues for
My people and whatever water
They know. O weary drinkers

Drinking from the bloody river,
Why go to heaven with Harlem
So close? Why sing of rivers

With a daddy of my own to miss?
I remember him and taste a stain
Red as blood coursing the body

Of a man chased by a mob. I write
That running, his sweat: here,
He climbs a poplar for the sky,

But it is only sky. The river?
Follow me. You'll see. We tried
To fly and learned we couldn't

Swim. Dear singing river full of
My blood, are we as loud under-
Water? Is it blood that binds

Brothers? Or is it the Mississippi
Running through the fattest vein
Of America? When I say home,

I mean I wanted to write some
Lines. I wanted to hear the blues,
But here I am swimming in the river

Again. What runs through the fat
Veins of a drowned body? What
America can a body call home?

When I say Congo, I mean blood.
When I say Nile, I mean blood.
When I say Euphrates, I mean,

If only you knew how much blood
We have in common. So much,
In Louisiana, they call a man like me

Red. And red was too dark
For my daddy. And my daddy was
Too dark for America. He ran

Like a man from my mother
And me. And my mother's sobs
Are the songs of Bessie Smith

Who wears more feathers than
Death. O the death my people refuse
To die. When I was 18, I wrote down

The river though I couldn't win
A race, climbed a tree that winter, then
Fell, flat on my wet, red face. Line

After line, I read all the time,
But "there was nothing
I could do about Race."

Monday, February 13, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Arna Bontemps (yesterday)

by Arna Bontemps

After the cloud embankments,
the lamentation of wind
and the starry descent into time,
we came to the flashing waters and shaded our eyes
from the glare.

Alone with the shore and the harbor,
the stems of the cocoanut trees,
the fronds of silence and hushed music,
we cried for the new revelation
and waited for miracles to rise.

Where elements touch and merge,
where shadows swoon like outcasts on the sand
and the tried moment waits, its courage gone--
there were we

in latitudes where storms are born.

29 days of Black poets - Eloise Greenfield

Harriet Tubman  
by Eloise Greenfield

Harriet Tubman didn't take no stuff
Wasn't scared of nothing neither
Didn't come in this world to be no slave
And wasn't going to stay one either

"Farewell!" she sang to her friends one night
She was mighty sad to leave 'em
But she ran away that dark, hot night
Ran looking for her freedom
She ran to the woods and she ran through the woods
With the slave catchers right behind her
And she kept on going till she got to the North
Where those mean men couldn't find her

Nineteen times she went back South
To get three hundred others
She ran for her freedom nineteen times
To save Black sisters and brothers
Harriet Tubman didn't take no stuff
Wasn't scared of nothing neither
Didn't come in this world to be no slave
And didn't stay one either

And didn't stay one either

Saturday, February 11, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Kevin Young

For the Confederate Dead  
by Kevin Young

I go with the team also.

These are the last days
my television says. Tornadoes, more
rain, overcast, a chance

of sun but I do not
trust weathermen,
never have. In my fridge only

the milk makes sense—
expires. No one, much less
my parents, can tell me why

my middle name is Lowell,
and from my table
across from the Confederate

Monument to the dead (that pale
finger bone) a plaque
declares war—not Civil,

or Between
the States, but for Southern
Independence. In this café, below sea-

and eye-level a mural runs
the wall, flaking, a plantation
scene most do not see—

it's too much
around the knees, height
of a child. In its fields Negroes bend

to pick the endless white.
In livery a few drive carriages
like slaves, whipping the horses, faces

blank and peeling. The old hotel
lobby this once was no longer
welcomes guests—maroon ledger,

bellboys gone but
for this. Like an inheritance
the owner found it

stripping hundred years
(at least) of paint
and plaster. More leaves each day.

In my movie there are no
horses, no heroes,
only draftees fleeing

into the pines, some few
who survive, gravely
wounded, lying

burrowed beneath the dead—
silent until the enemy
bayonets what is believed

to be the last
of the breathing. It is getting later.
We prepare

for wars no longer
there. The weather
inevitable, unusual—

more this time of year
than anyone ever seed. The earth
shudders, the air—

if I did not know
better, I would think
we were living all along

a fault. How late
it has gotten . . .
Forget the weatherman

whose maps move, blink,
but stay crossed
with lines none has seen. Race

instead against the almost
rain, digging beside the monument
(that giant anchor)

till we strike
water, sweat
fighting the sleepwalking air.

Friday, February 10, 2012

29 days of Black poets - James Weldon Johnson

Lift Every Voice and Sing  
by James Weldon Johnson

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

29 days of Black poets - C'BS ALife Allah

Sound of Indigo
By C'BS ALife Allah

contralto moan of mahogany mud madonnas
brown sugar Guadalupean virgins
chunky incense thawing soft hum
midnight mass hymns

police horns sprinkled with sleet
stellar squeak of stars in bloom
decapitated presidents' silver sliver ting
Miles' horn bleating

delicate waters roar tumbling from faucet
chalk scratch of saliva tears
molasses heavy ooze ohm drone
A mother's lamentation

warm worn palm sizzle
coarse binary urban I-Ching chime
bones crack rumble against brownstone
dice scratching over the concrete

cartoon road runner's whir
pudgy footfalls drumming on hardwood floors
silly muffled Adobo snores
A 4 year old asking me to be his daddy

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Jessie Redmon Fauset

Dead Fires  
by Jessie Redmon Fauset

If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing,
Then better far the hateful fret, the sting.
Better the wound forever seeking balm
Than this gray calm!

Is this pain's surcease? Better far the ache,
The long-drawn dreary day, the night's white wake,
Better the choking sigh, the sobbing breath
Than passion's death!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Michael S. Harper

American History  
by Michael S. Harper

Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn't find them.
Can't find what you can't see
can you?

Monday, February 6, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Claude McKay

The White House  
by Claude McKay

Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Langston Hughes

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Paul Laurence Dunbar

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
   When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
   When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats its wing
   Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
   And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
   When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
   But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

Friday, February 3, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Yusef Komunyakaa

Believing in Iron  
by Yusef Komunyakaa

The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn't stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
We'd return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load,
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn't believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Maya Angelou

Still I Rise  
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

29 days of Black poets - Georgia Douglas Johnson

The Heart of a Woman  
by Georgia Douglas Johnson

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o'er life's turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.