•April 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Poetically speaking, growing up is mediocrity
– Ned Rorem
Neither rosy nor prim
not cousin to the cowslip
nor the extravagant fuchsia-
I doubt anyone has ever
picked one for show,
though the woods must be fringed
with their lemony effusions.
Sun blathers its baronial
endorsement, but they refuse
to join the ranks. Summer
brings them in armfuls,
yet, when the day is large,
you won’t see them fluttering
the length of the road.
They’ll wait until the world’s
tucked in and the sky’s
one ceaseless shimmer-then
lift their saturated eyelids
and blaze, blaze
all night long
for no one.
Excerpted from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry
- National Poetry Month (poemattic.wordpress.com)
- “Flirtation” by Rita Dove (missparasol.wordpress.com)
•April 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Then after Eden,
was there one surprise?
O yes, the awe of Adam
at the first bead of sweat.
Thenceforth, all flesh
had to be sown with salt,
to feel the edge of seasons,
fear and harvest
joy that was difficult,
but was, at least, his own.
The snake? It would not trust
on its forked tree.
The snake admired Labour,
it would not leave him alone.
And both would watch the leaves
silver the alder,
oaks yellowing October,
everything turning money.
So when Adam was exiled
to our new Eden, in the ark’s gut,
the coined snake coiled there for good
fellowship also; that was willed.
Adam had an idea.
He and the snake would share
the loss of Eden for a profit.
So both made the New World. And it looked good.
Excerpted from Derek Walcott: Collected Poems 1948-1984
•March 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment
You’re on the porch with the broom sweeping the same spot, getting the same sound-dry straw against dry leaf caught in the loose-dirt crevice of the cement tiles. No phone, no footfalls, no welcome variation. It’s 3:15. Your ears strain, stretching down the block, searching through schoolchild chatter for that one voice that will give you ease. Your eyes sting with the effort to see over bushes, look through buildings, cut through everything that separates you from your child’s starting point-the junior high school.
The little kids you keep telling not to cut through your yard are cutting through your yard. Not boisterous-bold and loose-limbed as they used to be in the first and second grades. But not huddled and spooked as they were last year. You had to saw off the dogwood limbs. They’d creak and sway, throwing shadows of alarm on the walkway, sending the children shrieking down the driveway. You couldn’t store mulch in lawnleaf bags then, either. They’d look, even to you, coming upon those humps in your flowerbed, like bagged bodies.
A few months ago, everyone went about wary, tense, their shoulders hiked to their ears in order to fend off grisly news of slaughter. But now, adults walk as loose-limbed and carefree as the children who are scudding down the driveway, scuffing their shoes, then huddling on the sidewalk below.
The terror is over, the authorities say. The horror is past, they repeat every day. There’ve been no new cases of kidnap and murder since the arrest back in June. You’ve good reason to know the official line is a lie. But you sweep the walk briskly all the way to the hedge, as though in clearing the leaves you can clear from you mind all that you know. You’d truly like to know less.You want to believe. It’s 3:23 on your Mother’s Day watch. And your child is nowhere in sight.
•January 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment
I now think that those two accomplices–guilt and shame–are probably together the most corrosively painful scourges the human spirit can experience. Precisely because they always and only stem from one’s own failure to keep faith with one’s truest self. With one’s private conscience, one’s most cherished and basic principles, with one’s sense of honor. For me it was an important lesson too painful to ever forget. I may not have known the word integrity, but that is what that was about. That simple incident first taught me that no matter how private or hidden the betrayal, one cannot live without integrity. The pain is too great. My late father had a much used saying that, because it seemed so unforgiving, puzzled me greatly as a young boy. It occurs to me that this is what it was about: integrity. “You can tell the truth every day of your life,” my father would say, “and if, on the day of your death, you tell a lie…that is what will matter.
That very day I began seriously to separate myself from the antisocial behaviors of the street.
Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggle of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)
•January 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Sometime in the late 1930′s, the government in another of its persistent and futile attempts to suppress African cultural survivals, decided that the colony would more easily be governable if drums and other traditional musical instruments were outlawed. The colonials must have sensed, and correctly, the importance of music in the cultural independence and political resistance of the African masses. I would, of course, encounter this phenomenon again in the American South. But at least the George Wallaces and Ross Barnetts of that world never tried to outlaw our spirituals and freedom songs. Though I’m sure they must have often wished they could have.
So in Trinidad by legislative fiat an African could be jailed for possession of drums and other musical instruments? Not a gun, not a grenade, or some dynamite, but a drum? I have often tried, and failed, to visualize the campaign to enforce that law. In implementation of this policy, did armed police and soldiers–the governor’s minions–surround African communities and conduct house-to-house searches? And for what, those threats to public order, drums, tambourines, maracas, and marimbas? Did they kick down the doors to shacks with guns drawn: “Freeze. You’re under arrest. Seize that drum!”
So, suddenly deprived of their traditional instruments of musical expression, Africans resorted to their creativity and whatever materials lay to hand. In this case, the fifty-five-gallon steel drums used to store oil at the refinery.
These they took and cut to varying depths. Say nine inches down for an alto pan, two feet deep for a tenor pan, and twice that for a bass. Then on the top they would heat and pound out a number of raised areas, each of which when struck would produce a precise musical note of a certain pitch. Over the years the brothers experimented with ways to refine the basic instruments and to create others. The result is what is today known the world over as the Trinidad steel band: an ensemble of musical instruments of great range and flexibility, capable of playing not only calypso and other forms of local popular music, but the most complex and demanding of jazz compositions or any form from the European classical tradition you care to name. A sound immediately recognizable in the distinctive, liquid purity of tones and the fluency of its musical lines.
Hey, as you may have noticed, I can’t pretend to be an ethnomusicologist. I’m a revolutionary. But that description should give you a fairly accurate sense of the accomplishment represented by the creation of the steel bands. And remember, this unique innovation and the musical tradition it evolved into came directly out of the determined and indomitable will of Trinidad’s African’s to resist colonization and to maintain their culture.
Excerpted from Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggle of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)