Celebration time: black poets!!

All day Poetry by Black or African poets. Celebration time.

1.
When God
created
the black child
He was
showing off.

“Black Cryptogram” for Sterling A. Brown by Michael S. Harper
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2 . Tall as a Cypress (abr).

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
strong
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
assailed
impervious
indestructible
Look
on me and be
renewed

Mari Evans
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3. Poem about my Rights (abr)

alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
[…]
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life

June Jordan. “Poem about my rights”

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KOKUMỌ: Lucille Clifton. Grandsons!!

CLIFTON_resized

KOKUMỌ

Photographs, my grandsons spinning in their joy.

universe
keep them turning —turning
black blurs against the window
of the world
for they are beautiful
and there is trouble coming
round and round and round

Lucille Clifton
In: the Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry.
Ed. Arnold Rampersad; Associate Ed. Hilary Herbold.

 

BUY the book:

USED: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=oxford+anthology+of+african-american+poetry
NEW from a local bookstore: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780195125634

From: Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Rankine-Claudia-hr
Image Credit: CSU Fullerton
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CLAUDIA RANKINE co-edited the anthology American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language, and her work is included in several anthologies, including Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present, Best American Poetry 2001, Giant Step: African American Writing at the Crossroads of the Century, and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African-American Poetry. Her work has been published in numerous journals including Boston Review, TriQuarterly, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. She lives and teaches in California. She is the Holloway/Mixed Blood poet for the spring series.
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You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.
/
You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.
Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.
/
As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens 
and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.
/
When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term — John Henryism — for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in 
silence you are bucking the trend.
/
When the stranger asks, Why do you care? you just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers. Hey, I am standing right here, you responded, not necessarily expecting him to turn to you.
He is holding the lidded paper cup in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. They are just being kids. Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.
Now there you go, he responds.
The people around you have turned away from their screens. The teenagers are on pause. There I go? you ask, feeling irritation begin to rain down. Yes, and something about hearing yourself repeating this stranger’s accusation in a voice usually reserved for your partner makes you smile.
/
A man knocked over her son in the subway. You feel your own body wince. He’s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize. And yes, you want it to stop, you want the black child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet and be brushed off, not brushed off  by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.
The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of  bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.
/
The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?
It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.
I am so sorry, so, so sorry.
/
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BUY!
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NEW from Independent bookstores: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780819565471

James Weldon Johnson- Black Mammy

Beautiful poem on why care-takers deserve to become permanent residents in Canada (Filipina, Caribbean). Fill in the arguments. By James Weldon Johnson, African-American poet.

THE BLACK MAMMY

O whitened head entwined in turban gay,
O kind black face, O crude, but tender hand,
O foster-mother in whose arms there lay
The race whose sons are masters of the land!
It was thine arms that sheltered in their fold,
It was thine eyes that followed through the length
Of infant days these sons. In times of old
It was thy breast that nourished them to strength.

So often hast thou to thy bosom pressed
The golden head, the face and brow of snow;
So often has it ‘gainst thy broad, dark breast
Lain, set off like a quickened cameo.
Thou simple soul, as cuddling down that babe
With thy sweet croon, so plaintive and so wild,
Came ne’er the thought to thee, swift like a stab,
That it some day might crush thine own black child?

from Fifty Years & Other Poems (1917)

 

MY CITY- J.W. Johnson

When I come down to sleep death’s endless night,
The threshold of the unknown dark to cross,
What to me then will be the keenest loss,
When this bright world blurs on my fading sight?
Will it be that no more I shall see the trees
Or smell the flowers or hear the singing birds
Or watch the flashing streams or patient herds?
No, I am sure it will be none of these.

But, ah! Manhattan’s sights and sounds, her smells,
Her crowds, her throbbing force, the thrill that comes
From being of her a part, her subtle spells,
Her shining towers, her avenues, her slums–
O God! the stark, unutterable pity,
To be dead, and never again behold my city!

For the love of words. And the freedom to love.

bettsxr-dwayne-betts

Photo by H. Darr Beiser. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths!

About his being locked up as an “adult” as a 16 year old in a men’s prison.

dwayne-betts

Photo by Gesi Schilling.

“For you: anthophilous, lover of flowers”

BY REGINALD DWAYNE BETTS

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For you: anthophilous, lover of flowers,
green roses, chrysanthemums, lilies: retrophilia,
philocaly, philomath, sarcophilous—all this love,
of the past, of beauty, of knowledge, of flesh; this is
catalogue & counter: philalethist, negrophile, neophile.
A negro man walks down the street, taps Newport
out against a brick wall & stares at you. Love
that: lygophilia, lithophilous. Be amongst stones,
amongst darkness. We are glass house. Philopornist,
philotechnical. Why not worship the demimonde?
Love that—a corner room, whatever is not there,
all the clutter you keep secret. Palaeophile,
ornithophilous: you, antiquarian, pollinated by birds.
All this a way to dream green rose petals on the bed you love;
petrophilous, stigmatophilia: live near rocks, tattoo hurt;
for you topophilia: what place do you love? All these words
for love (for you), all these ways to say believe
in symphily, to say let us live near each other.
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About his being locked up as an “adult” as a 16 year old in a men’s prison.
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Tax cuts mean less time to read, fewer hours of access per month in the prison library- no they can’t go every day. Please.
Your tax cuts take humanity away from other persons.
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Your tax cuts mean no time for therapy, no time to prepare for the living world, no time to better yourself, no strength to stay away, no better neighbourhood to return to, no vote. No voice.
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And yes, everyone deserves to be heard, even if you sold coke or weed (that’s what the majority of black men are in prison for) or killed someone or defrauded thousands of people or paid your employees too little. They are people.
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You have done wrong. Everybody has skeletons. If you’ve done your time, you should be given all your rights back.
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Anyway.

I am angry for a reason.

In poetry other answers to anger, trying to find some that fit, and enjoying finding new poets, happy with what I find:

Sapphics Against Anger
BY TIMOTHY STEELE
Angered, may I be near a glass of water;
May my first impulse be to think of Silence,
Its deities (who are they? do, in fact, they
Exist? etc.).

May I recall what Aristotle says of
The subject: to give vent to rage is not to
Release it but to be increasingly prone
To its incursions.
[…]

I did not write this poem — in anger. By Joel Dias-Porter

I did not write this poem
in anger,
I did not write this poem
in “Self-Defense.”
I did not write this poem.
Because my pen is empty from
having already written & written this poem.
– Joel Dias-Porter

Minnie Bruce Pratt
Justice, Come Down

[…]
I can smell my anger like sulfur-
struck matches. I wanted what had happened
to be a wall to burn, a window to smash.
At my fist the pieces would sparkle and fall.
All would be changed. I would not be alone. […]

From Violence to Peace
BY JIMMY SANTIAGO BACA

…I drove to Felipe’s house,
anger knotted in me
tight as the rope tied
to the stock trailer
steer strained against.
I pulled, but could not free myself. […]

“Felipe!” I yelled, porch light
flicked on, illuminating the yard.
“Came to fight,” I said, “take off
your glasses.” […]

First shot framed darkness round me
with a spillway of bright light,
eruption of sound, and second shot roared
a spray of brilliance and the third
gave an expanded halo-flash.
My legs woozed, and then
I buckled to the ground.
(I thought, holy shit, what ever happened
to the old yard-style fight between estranged friends!) […]

…During my week in bed,
pellets pollinated me
with a forgotten peace,
and between waking thoughts of anger and vengeance,
sleep was a small meadow of light,
a clearing I walked into and rested. Fragrance of peace
filled me as fragrance
of flowers and dirt permeate hands
that work in the garden all day…

Rita Dove: Fifth Grade Autobiography!

Love love love this poem. Hilarious, touching. but I remember his hands.

Fifth Grade Autobiography

BY RITA DOVE

I was four in this photograph fishing
with my grandparents at a lake in Michigan.
My brother squats in poison ivy.
His Davy Crockett cap
sits squared on his head so the raccoon tail
flounces down the back of his sailor suit.
My grandfather sits to the far right
in a folding chair,
and I know his left hand is on
the tobacco in his pants pocket
because I used to wrap it for him
every Christmas. Grandmother’s hips
bulge from the brush, she’s leaning
into the ice chest, sun through the trees
printing her dress with soft
luminous paws.
I am staring jealously at my brother;
the day before he rode his first horse, alone.
I was strapped in a basket
behind my grandfather.
He smelled of lemons. He’s died—
but I remember his hands.
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