#BlackHistoryMonth Old Black Ladies Standing on Bus Stop Corners #poem

7db2148cc553f6b4793de5f6fc583e7cLadies On The Town, Bus Stop In Chinatown, Washington, DC
Photo by Gerald L. Campbell

Old Black Ladies Standing on Bus Stop Corners #2

for my grandmother, Leona Smith

blue black & bow bent under, beautiful
blue black & bow bent under, beautiful
blue black & bow bent under, beautiful

& it never did matter
whether the weather
was flame-tongue-licked
or as cold as a welldigger’s asshole
in late december when santa claus
was working his cold money bullshit
that made financiers grin ear to ear
all the way to secret bank vaults
overflowing with marble eyes
of dirt-poor children

blue black & bow bent under, beautiful
blue black & bow bent under, beautiful
blue black & bow bent under, beautiful

never did matter
whether the days were storm raked
unzipped by lightning streaking clouds
dropping tornadoes that skipped crazy
to their own exploding beat
shooting hailstone death–
that popped like old bones–
crashing into the skulled
sunken eyes of tired old ladies
tired old black ladies
standing on bus stop corners
pain wrapped as shawls around their necks

blue black & bow bent under, beautiful

& “mama” it didn’t matter
that your pained scarred feet overworked
numb legs grew down out of old worn dresses
seemingly fragile, gaunt & skeletal frail
as two old mop sticks–scarecrow legs–
and didn’t matter because you stood there anyway
defying nature’s chameleon weather–
cold as a welldigger’s asshole, then oven-hot–
defying all reason, you stood
there, testifying over 300 years
stretching back, of madness & treason

blue black & bow bent under, beautiful

no, it didn’t matter
because the beauty of your heroic life
grown lovely in twisted swamps
grown lovely in a loveless land
grown pure & full from wombs
of concrete blood & bones
of concrete blood & bones & death
of death & sweat chained to breath
didn’t matter dark proud flower
who stood tall scrubbed by cold
& rain & heat & age carrying
the foreign name given your grandfather–
who swayed body high
twisting & turning in the breeze
like billie’s “strange fruit”–

because you stood there anyway
unforgettably silent in your standing
beautiful work-scarred black lady
numb legs & bow bent under beautiful
stood there on pain-scarred feet overworked
numb legs
& bow bent under beautiful
under the memory of your grandfather swaying high
up there in a burning southern breeze
now sweet music love sings soft tender beauty
deep in your washed aging windows–
& you give me strength
during the mad, bizarre days–

& we have learned to love your life
& will vindicate the pain & silence of your life
the memory of your grandfather with the foreign name
& who sways high up there in history over your legs
blue black & bow bent under beautiful
the weight of over 300 years carried
of blood & bones & death in mud
of breath & sweat chained to death
numb legs & bow bent under beautiful
under the memory of your grandfather
swaying high up there in the burning breeze

didn’t matter whether the weather was flame-tongue-licked
or cold as a welldigger’s asshole in late december
because you stood there anyway
in full bloom of your strength & rare beauty
& made us strong

blue black & bow bent under, beautiful
blue black & bow bent under, beautiful
blue black & bow bent under, beautiful

Quincy Troupe, in The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry, ed. Arnold Rampersad (Oxford 2006)

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From: The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry.
NEW and USED: Abebooks.com The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry
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#ForgottenFire Suzy La Follette #iNeedFeminismBecause

article-2694451-1FAA2DBC00000578-872_634x419

Nothing is gentle for me here. The fire’s
heat is brief, occasional. it’s their eyes
that burn the back of my neck. I was hired
through the same requirements and I’ll rise
through the ranks with the same tests. Yet, somehow
I’ll have more. With every alarm I prove
my strength, prove my skill prove my worth. My brow
furrowed, clothes soaked with sweat. But all my moves
are soon forgotten, disappear like steam
rising from my head, with helmets removed.
Surely, when they tell stories they don’t mean
to forget me, but they do. In their truth
it must’ve been one of the guys, that pulled
that body from the car. Now who’s the fool?

Suzy La Follette

Career firefighter, poet, singer Arti Twit and the Alibis. From Austin, Texas.

http://www.girlsrockaustin.org
http://www.annrichardsschool.org

From: We Will Be Shelter, edited by Andrea Gibson.

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The Black Unicorn, Audre Lorde.

Migraine morning, so no reading law but reading poetry.

The Black Unicorn

The black unicorn is greedy.
The black unicorn is impatient.
The black unicorn was mistaken
for a shadow or symbol
and taken
through a cold country
where mist painted mockeries
of my fury.
It is not on her lap where the horn rests
but deep in her moonpit
growing.
The black unicorn is restless
the black unicorn is unrelenting
the black unicorn is not
free.

NEW and USED: Abebooks.com The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry
NEW at independent bookstores: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780195125634

The Black Unicorn isn’t supposed to be funny, but she makes me smile. I’m not sure: I think the mist means that a token black person is white washed by white friends or fellow academics, writers maybe, a place where she feels bound also by misogyny and emphasizes her power comes from her vag. That’s what I read into it. The black unicorn is powerful.

Quick notes about the poem.

Pamela Sneed- Survivor 2014 “the frayed ends of my own un-lived dreams”

PamelaSneed

Photo by Robert Giard in book “Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers” Abebooks.com

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=pamela+sneed&sts=t&x=35&y=18

Pamela Sneed

Survivor 2014 

Contrary to what’s popular I never liked Diana Nyad

in my mind overrated white woman

ex-olympic swimmer most recently swam from Cuba to Florida

privileged

thrill seeker

daredevil

doing voluntarily what so many people of color

are forced to do while attempting to gain freedom

drowning in boats, falling overboard, terrible accidents,

falling into the jaws of sharks, those waters a meat fest

for predators, slavers

Sometimes I think about slavery and think if only those waters

could tell the tale

I’ve always wanted to say to those people who go on the reality-show Survivor for kicks

try being an artist and make it your career choice

or how about a single mother or father trying to raise a family

on minimum wage living in an impoverished area

try being someone who comes to America and

doesn’t speak the language whose entire survival rests upon

learning english

arriving in a strange land, on strange soil, estranged from everything

you have ever known

like hitting your head against a glass door, or mirrors

like optical illusions that used to be in the old fun houses

or how about being uninsured and being sick for a number

of years

weathering that storm

or insured but burdened with a costly illness

health plans don’t cover

or like so many of my students who are bullied to the point

they have nowhere to turn and no longer have knowledge

of their own name

No I never liked Diana Nyad

until one day I caught a clip of her on Ellen

I caught the part where she talked about her friendship

with Superman Christopher Reeve who in real life suffered

paralysis from the neck down.

He looked at her in later years after she’d retired from swimming

said he feared she wasn’t living her own dreams, that

she was an Olympian

And something about her conversations with him motivated her

to try again, to listen.

Maybe through her I saw the frayed ends of my own un-lived dreams,

my own fear that caused paralysis

And so by the end of that conversation with Ellen

where Diana talked about returning to her Olympic Self

by swimming from Cuba to Florida at age 60 challenging

every notion of what it means to be an athlete, a woman,

and the stereotypes of aging I was crying

by the time she looked into the camera and said

Never give up

Don’t ever give up on your dreams

 

http://www.lambdaliterary.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/nepantla.ajournal.pdf


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