“Viva y no pare” / “Live and don’t hold back”: Nicolás Guillén + el Yoruba de Cuba / the Yoruba from Cuba

Z|P_Cabeza de piña por Eduardo Roca alias Choco_pintor cubano

Z|P_Cabeza de piña por Eduardo Roca alias Choco_pintor cubano

Nicolás Guillén (Cuba, 1902-1989)

A poem from “ ‘Son’ Motifs ” (1930)

Go get some dough”

.

Get some silver,

go get some dough for us!

Cuz I’m not goin one step more:

we’re down to just rice and crackers,

that’s it.

Yeah, I know how things are,

but hey, my Guy – a person’s gotta eat:

so get some money,

go get it,

else I’m gonna beat it.

Then they’ll call me a ‘no good’ woman

and won’t want nothin’ to do with me. But

Love with Hunger? Hell no!

.

There’s so many pretty new shoes out there, dammit!

So many wristwatches, compadre!

Hell – so many luxuries we might have, my Man!

.

Translation from Spanish: Alexander Best

.

Note: ‘Son’ (meaning Sound) was the traditional Cuban music style of the early twentieth century.

It combined Spanish song and guitars with African percussion of Bantu origin. ‘Son’ was the basis upon which Salsa developed.

.     .     .

Del poemario “Motivos de Son” (1930)

Búcate plata”

.

Búcate plata,

búcate plata,

poqque no doy un paso má;

etoy a arró con galleta,

na má.

Yo bien sé como etá to,

pero biejo, hay que comé:

búcate plata,

búcate plata,

poqque me boy a corré.

Depué dirán que soy mala,

y no me quedrán tratá,

pero amó con hambre, biejo.

¡qué ba!

con tanto sapato nuevo,

¡qué ba!

Con tanto reló, compadre,

¡qué ba!

Con tanto lujo, mi negro,

¡qué ba!

.     .     .

A poem from Sóngoro cosongo: mulatto poems (1931)

Cane”

.

The black man
together with the plantation.

The yankee
on the plantation.

The earth
beneath the plantation.

Our blood
drains out of us!

.     .     .

Un poema del poemario Sóngoro cosongo: poemas mulatos (1931)

Caña”

.

El negro
junto al cañaveral.

El yanqui
sobre el cañaveral.

La tierra
bajo el cañaveral.

¡Sangre
que se nos va!

.     .     .



Two poems from “West Indies, Ltd.” (1934):

Guadaloupe, W. I., Pointe-à-Pitre”

.

The black men, working
near the steamboat. The arabs, selling,
the french, strolling, having a rest

and the sun, burning.
.

In the harbour the sea
lies down. The air toasts
the palm trees… I scream: Guadaloupe!

but nobody answers.

.

The steamboat leaves, labouring through
the impassive waters with a foaming roar.

There the black men stay, still working,
and the arabs, selling,
and the french, strolling, having a rest

and the sun, burning…

.     .     .

Guadalupe, W. I., Pointe-à-Pitre” (1934)

.

Los negros, trabajando
junto al vapor. Los árabes, vendiendo,
los franceses, paseando y descansando

y el sol, ardiendo.

En el puerto se acuesta
el mar. El aire tuesta
las palmeras… Yo grito: ¡Guadalupe!

pero nadie contesta.

.

Parte el vapor, arando
las aguas impasibles con espumoso estruendo.

Allá quedan los negros trabajando,
los árabes vendiendo,
los franceses, paseando y descansando

y el sol, ardiendo…

.     .     .

Riddles”

.

The teeth, filled with the morning,
and the hair, filled with the night.
Who is it? It’s him, or it’s not him?
— Black man.

.

Though she being woman and not beautiful,
you’ll do what she orders you.
Who is it? It’s him, or it’s not him?
— Hunger.

.

Slave of the slaves,
and towards the masters, tyrant.
Who is it? It’s him, or it’s not him?
— Sugar cane.

.

Noise of a hand
that never ignores the other.
Who is it? It’s him, or it’s not him?
— Almsgiving.

.

A man who is crying
going on with the laugh he learned.
Who is it? It’s him, or it’s not him?
— Me.

.     .     .

Adivinanzas”

.

En los dientes, la mañana,
y la noche en el pellejo.
¿Quién será, quién no será?
— El negro.

.

Con ser hembra y no ser bella,
harás lo que ella te mande.
¿Quién será, quién no será?
— El hambre.

.

Esclava de los esclavos,
y con los dueños, tirana.
¿Quién será, quién no será?
— La caña.

.

Escándalo de una mano
que nunca ignora a la otra.
¿Quién será, quién no será?
— La limosna.

.

Un hombre que está llorando
con la risa que aprendió.
¿Quién será, quién no será?
— Yo.

.     .     .

Poem from “Cantos para soldados y sones para turistas (1937)

Execution”

.

They are going to execute
a man whose arms are tied.
There are four soldiers
for the shooting.
Four silent
soldiers,
fastened up,
like the fastened-up man they’re going to kill.

Can you escape?
— I can’t run!
— They’re gonna shoot!
— What’re we gonna do?
— Maybe the rifles aren’t loaded…
— They got six bullets of fierce lead!
— Perhaps these soldiers don’t shoot!
— You’re a fool – through and through!

.

They fired.
(How was it they could shoot?)
They killed.
(How was it they could kill?)
They were four silent
soldiers,
and an official señor
made a signal to them, lowering his saber.
Four soldiers they were,

and tied,
like the man they were to kill.


ZP_En la mira (In the cross-hairs)_Eduardo Roca (Choco)_pintor cubano

ZP_En la mira (In the cross-hairs)_Eduardo Roca (Choco)_pintor cubano

Fusilamiento”

.

Van a fusilar
a un hombre que tiene los brazos atados.
Hay cuatro soldados
para disparar.
Son cuatro soldados
callados,
que están amarrados,
lo mismo que el hombre amarrado que van a matar.

¿Puedes escapar?
—¡No puedo correr!
—¡Ya van a tirar!
—¡Qué vamos a hacer!
—Quizá los rifles no estén cargados…
—¡Seis balas tienen de fiero plomo!
—¡Quizá no tiren esos soldados!
—¡Eres un tonto de tomo y lomo!

.

Tiraron.
(¿Cómo fue que pudieron tirar?)
Mataron.
(¿Cómo fue que pudieron matar?)
Eran cuatro soldados
callados,
y les hizo una seña, bajando su sable,
un señor oficial;
eran cuatro soldados
atados,
lo mismo que el hombre que fueron los cuatro a
matar.

.     .     .

Bourgeois”

.

The vanquished bourgeois – they don’t make me sad.
And when I think they are going to make me sad,
I just really grit my teeth, really shut my eyes.

.

I think about my long days with neither shoes and roses,
I think about my long days with neither sombrero nor
clouds,
I think about my long days without a shirt – or dreams,
I think about my long days with my prohibited skin,
I think about my long days And

.

You cannot come in, please – this is a club.
The payroll is full.
There’s no room in this hotel.
The señor has stepped out.

Looking for a girl.
Fraud in the elections.
A big dance for blind folks.

.

The first price fell to Santa Clara.
A “Tómbola” lottery for orphans.
The gentleman is in Paris.
Madam the marchioness doesn’t receive people.
Finally And

.

Given that I recall everything and

the way I recall everything,
what the hell are you asking me to do?
In addition, ask them,
I’m sure they too
recall all.

.     .     .

Burgueses”

.

No me dan pena los burgueses vencidos.
Y cuando pienso que van a dar me pena,
aprieto bien los dientes, y cierro bien los ojos.

.

Pienso en mis largos días sin zapatos ni rosas,
pienso en mis largos días sin sombrero ni nubes,
pienso en mis largos días sin camisa ni sueños,
pienso en mis largos días con mi piel prohibida,
pienso en mis largos días Y

.

No pase, por favor, esto es un club.
La nómina está llena.
No hay pieza en el hotel.
El señor ha salido.

.

Se busca una muchacha.
Fraude en las elecciones.
Gran baile para ciegos.

.

Cayó el premio mayor en Santa Clara.
Tómbola para huérfanos.
El caballero está en París.
La señora marquesa no recibe.
En fin Y

Que todo lo recuerdo y como todo lo
recuerdo,
¿qué carajo me pide usted que haga?
Además, pregúnteles,
estoy seguro de que también
recuerdan ellos.

.     .     .

The Black Sea”

.

The purple night dreams

over the sea;

voices of fishermen,

wet with the sea;

the moon makes its exit,

dripping all over the sea.

.

The black sea.

Throughout the night, a sound,

flows into the bay;

throughout the night, a sound.

.

The boats see it happen,

throughout the night, this sound,

igniting the chilly water.

Throughout the night, a sound,

Inside the night, this sound,

Across the night – a sound.

.

The black sea.

Ohhh, my mulatto woman of fine, fine gold,

I sigh, oh my mixed woman who is like gold and silver together,

with her red poppy and her orange blossom.

At the foot of the sea.

At the foot of the sea, the hungry, masculine sea.

.

Translation from Spanish:  Alexander Best

.     .     .

El Negro Mar”
.
La noche morada sueña
sobre el mar;
la voz de los pescadores
mojada en el mar;
sale la luna chorreando
del mar.

El negro mar.

Por entre la noche un son,
desemboca en la bahía;
por entre la noche un son.

Los barcos lo ven pasar,
por entre la noche un son,
encendiendo el agua fría.
Por entre la noche un son,
por entre la noche un son,
por entre la noche un son. . .

El negro mar.

Ay, mi mulata de oro fino,
ay, mi mulata
de oro y plata,
con su amapola y su azahar,
al pie del mar hambriento y masculino,
al pie del mar.

.     .     .

Son” Number 6

.

I’m Yoruba, crying out Yoruba
Lucumí.
Since I’m Yoruba from Cuba,
I want my lament of Yoruba to touch Cuba
the joyful weeping Yoruba
that comes out of me.
.
I’m Yoruba,
I keep singing
and crying.
When I’m not Yoruba then
I am Congo, Mandinga or Carabalí.
Listen my friends, to my ‘son’ which begins like this:
.
Here is the riddle
of all my hopes:
what’s mine is yours,
what’s yours is mine;
all the blood
shaping a river.
.
The silk-cotton tree, tree with its crown;
father, the father with his son;
the tortoise in its shell.
Let the heart-warming ‘son’ break out,
and our people dance,
heart close to heart,
glasses clinking together
water on water with rum!

.
I’m Yoruba, I’m Lucumí,
Mandinga, Congo, Carabalí.
Listen my friends, to the ‘son’ that goes like this:
.
We’ve come together from far away,
young ones and old,
Blacks and Whites, moving together;
one is a leader, the other a follower,
all moving together;
San Berenito and one who’s obeying
all moving together;
Blacks and Whites from far away,
all moving together;
Santa María and one who’s obeying
all moving together;
all pulling together, Santa María,
San Berenito, all pulling together,
all moving together, San Berenito,
San Berenito, Santa María.
Santa María, San Berenito,
everyone pulling together!
.
I’m Yoruba, I’m Lucumí
Mandinga, Congo, Carabalí.
Listen my friends, to my ‘son’ which ends like this:
.
Come out Mulatto,
walk on free,
tell the White man he can’t leave…
Nobody breaks away from here;
look and don’t stop,
listen and don’t wait
drink and don’t stop,
eat and don’t wait,
live and don’t hold back
our people’s ‘son’ will never end!

.

Translation from Spanish:  Salvador Ortiz-Carboneres

.     .     .

Son número 6”

.

Yoruba soy, lloro en yoruba
lucumí.
Como soy un yoruba de Cuba,
quiero que hasta Cuba suba mi llanto yoruba;
que suba el alegre llanto yoruba
que sale de mí.
.
Yoruba soy,
cantando voy,
llorando estoy,
y cuando no soy yoruba,
soy congo, mandinga, carabalí.
Atiendan amigos, mi son, que empieza así:
.
Adivinanza
de la esperanza:
lo mío es tuyo
lo tuyo es mío;
toda la sangre
formando un río.
.
La ceiba ceiba con su penacho;
el padre padre con su muchacho;
la jicotea en su carapacho.
.
¡Que rompa el son caliente,
y que lo baile la gente,
pecho con pecho,
vaso con vaso,
y agua con agua con aguardiente!
.
Yoruba soy, soy lucumí,
mandinga, congo, carabalí.
Atiendan, amigos, mi son, que sigue así:
.
Estamos juntos desde muy lejos,
jóvenes, viejos,
negros y blancos, todo mezclado;
uno mandando y otro mandado,
todo mezclado;
San Berenito y otro mandado,
todo mezclado;
negros y blancos desde muy lejos,
todo mezclado;
Santa María y uno mandado,
todo mezclado;
todo mezclado, Santa María,
San Berenito, todo mezclado,
todo mezclado, San Berenito,
San Berenito, Santa María,
Santa María, San Berenito
todo mezclado!
.
Yoruba soy, soy lucumí,
mandinga, congo, carabalí.
Atiendan, amigos, mi son, que acaba así:
.
Salga el mulato,
suelte el zapato,
díganle al blanco que no se va:
de aquí no hay nadie que se separe;
mire y no pare,
oiga y no pare,
beba y no pare,
viva y no pare,
que el son de todos no va a parar!

.     .     .     .     .


“They now gonna make us shut up”: The Black Nationalist / Third-World Socialist poetry of Amiri Baraka

ZP_photograph by Fundi_Billy Abernathy_from the 1970 Imamu Amiri Baraka book In Our Terribleness_I love you black perfect woman. Your spirit will rule the twenty first century. This is why we ourselves speed to grace...

ZP_photograph by Fundi_Billy Abernathy_from the 1970 Imamu Amiri Baraka book In Our Terribleness_I love you black perfect woman. Your spirit will rule the twenty first century. This is why we ourselves speed to grace…

Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones, 1934)

“Numbers, Letters” (written in 1965)

.

If you’re not home, where

are you?  Where’d you go?  What

were you doing when gone?  When

you come back, better make it good.

What was you doing down there, freakin’ off

with white women, hangin’ out

with Queens, say it straight to be

understood straight, put it flat and real

in the street where the sun comes and the

moon comes and the cold wind in winter

waters your eyes.  Say what you mean, dig

it out put it down, and be strong

about it.

.

I cant say who I am

unless you agree I’m real

.

I cant be anything I’m not

except these words pretend

to life not yet explained,

so here’s some feeling for you

see how you like it, what it

reveals, and that’s Me.

.

Unless you agree I’m real

that I can feel

whatever beats hardest

a our black souls

I am real, and I can’t say who

I am.  Ask me if I know, I’ll say

yes, I might say no.  Still, ask.

I’m Everett LeRoi Jones, 30 yrs old.

.

A black nigger in the universe.  A long breath singer,

wouldbe dancer, strong from years of fantasy

and study.  All this time then, for what’s happening

now.  All that spilling of white ether, clocks in ghostheads

lips drying and rewet, eyes opening and shut, mouths churning.

.

I am a meditative man, And when I say something it’s all of me

saying, and all the things that make me, have formed me, coloured me

this brilliant reddish night.  I will say nothing that I feel is

lie, or unproven by the same ghostclocks, by the same riders

Always move so fast with the word slung over their backs or

in saddlebags, charging down Chinese roads.  I carry some words,

some feeling, some life in me.  My heart is large as my mind

this is a messenger calling, over here, over here, open your eyes

and your ears and your souls;  today is the history we must learn

to desire.  There is no guilt in love.

 

.

(from “Black Magic”, published 1969)

 

.     .     .

 

“Black Art”

.

Poems are bullshit unless they are

teeth or trees or lemons piled

on a step.  Or black ladies dying

of men leaving nickel hearts

beating them down.  Fuck poems

and they are useful, wd they shoot

come at you, love what you are,

breathe like wrestlers, or shudder

strangely after pissing.  We want live

words of the hips world live flesh &

coursing blood.  Hearts Brains

Souls splintering fire.  We want poems

like fists beating niggers out of Jocks

or dagger poems in the slimy bellies

of the owner-jews.  Black poems to

smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches

whose brains are red jelly stuck

between  ’lizabeth taylor’s toes.  Stinking

Whores!  We want “poems that kill”.

Assassin poems, Poems that shoot

guns.  Poems that wrestle cops into alleys

and take their weapons leaving them dead

with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland.  Knockoff

poems for dope selling wops or slick halfwhite

politicians Airplane poems, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…tuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuh

…rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…Setting fire and death to

whities ass.  Look at the Liberal

Spokesman for the jews clutch his throat

& puke himself into eternity…rrrrrrr

There’s a negroleader pinned to

a bar stool in Sardi’s eyeballs melting

in hot flame Another negroleader

on the steps of the white house one

kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs

negotiating cooly for his people.

Agggh … stumbles across the room …

Put it on him, poem.  Strip him naked

to the world!  Another bad poem cracking

steel knuckles in a jewlady’s mouth

Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets

Clean out the world for virtue and love,

Let there be no love poems written

until love can exist freely and

cleanly.  Let Black People understand

that they are the lovers and the sons

of lovers and warriors and sons

of warriors Are poems & poets &

all the loveliness here in the world

.

We want a black poem. And a

Black World.

Let the world be a Black Poem

And Let All Black People Speak This Poem

silently

Or LOUD

.

(from “Black Magic”, published 1969)

ZP_from page 1 of In Our Terribleness_Some elements and meaning in black style_by Imamu Amiri Baraka_with Fundi_1970

ZP_from page 1 of In Our Terribleness_Some elements and meaning in black style_by Imamu Amiri Baraka_with Fundi_1970

 

“J. said, “Our whole universe is generated by a rhythm””

.

Is Dualism, the shadow inserted

for the northern trip, as the northern

trip, minstrels of the farther land,

the sun, in one place, ourselves, somewhere

else.  The Universe

is the rhythm

there is no on looker, no outside

no other than the real, the universe

is rhythm, and whatever is only is as

swinging.  All that is is funky, the bubbles

in the monsters brain, are hitting it too,

but the circles look like

swastikas, the square is thus

explained, but the nazis had dances, and even some of the

victims would tell you that.

.

There is no such thing as “our

universe”, only degrees of the swinging, what

does not swing is nothing, and nothing swings

when it wants to.  The desire alone is funky

and it is this heat Louis Armstrong scatted in.

.

What is not funky is psychological, metaphysical

is the religion of squares, pretending no one

is anywhere.

Everything gets hot, it is hot now, nothing cold exists

and cold, is the theoretical line the pretended boundary

where your eye and your hand disappear into desire.

.

Dualism is a quiet camp near the outer edge of the forest.

There the inmates worship money and violence. they are

learning right now to sing, let us join them for a moment

and listen.  Do not laugh, whatever you do.

 

.

(from “Funk Lore” – New Poems, 1984-1995)

 

.     .     .

 

“Brother Okot”

.

Our people say

death lives

in the West

(Any one

can see

plainly, each evening

where the sun

goes to die)

.

So Okot

is now in the West

.

Here w/ us

in hell

.

I have heard

his songs

felt the earth

drum his

dance

his wide ness

& Sky self

.

Ocoli Singer

Ocoli Fighter

.

Brother Okot

now here w/ us

in the place

.

Where even the Sun

dies.

.

Editor’s note:

Okot p’Bitek (1931-1982) was a Ugandan poet, author of the epic poem “Song of Lawino”,

written in the Acholi language.  (Acholi = Ocoli).

One of Okot p’Bitek’s daughters, Juliane Okot Bitek, is a poet whose work was featured by

Zócalo Poets in February 2012.

 

.     .     .

 

“Syncretism”

.

BAD NEWS SAY

KILL

DRUM

But Drum

no

die

just

act      slick

drum turn

mouth

tongue

drum go voice

be hand

on over

hauls

dont die

how some ever

drum turn slick

never

no drum

never

never

die

be a piano

a fiddle

a nigger tap

fellah

drum’ll

yodel

if it need to

Thing say Kill drum

but drum

dont die/dont even

disappear

& drum cant die

& wdn’t

no way!

.

(from “Funk Lore” – New Poems, 1984-1995)

 

.     .     .

 

“Bad People”

.

We want to be happy

neglecting

to check

the definition

.

We want to love

& be loved

but

What does that

mean?

.

Then you, backed up against

yr real life

.

claim you want

only

to  be correct.

.

Imagine the jeers,

the cat calls

the universal dis

.

such ignorance

justifiably

creates.

.

(from “Funk Lore” – New Poems, 1984-1995)

 

.     .     .     .     .

ZP Editor’s note:

“They now gonna make us shut up” is the opening line of Baraka’s 1969 poem “The People Burning”.

.

Editor Paul Vangelisti wrote in a 1995 foreword to an Amiri Baraka anthology that the poet “remains difficult to approach” – that is, for readers trying to place his ‘opus’ – since the U.S. literary establishment is “positioned somewhere between Anglo-American academicism and the Entertainment industry.”  Baraka cannot be fitted neatly anywhere – though he has been compared to Ezra Pound for “making poetry and politics reciprocal forms of action” (M.L. Rosenthal, 1973).

Imamu Amiri Baraka (Arabic for Spiritual Leader-Blesséd-Prince) was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey, and was one of the “urgent new voices” – black voices – of the 1960s.  Like a number of U.S. cities with Black citizens who were barred from “getting ahead” and who felt fed up with a normalized police brutality, Newark experienced what were then called “race riots”, in July 1967, leaving 26 people dead.  Over the decades Baraka has stuck by his city, continuing to live there through thick and thin.

.

The poet had often signed his poems “Roi”, up until 1966, at which time he took his Muslim name.  After the assassination of Malcolm X Baraka became more forceful in his poetry – promoting a Black Nationalist culture – and trying to give poetic shape to Anger.  But in the 1970s he distanced himself from Black Nationalism, finding in it “certain dead ends theoretically and ideologically”, and he gravitated toward Third-World Liberation movements involving Marxism.

.

Baraka has been brought to task over the years for sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia in his writing (from the 1960s especially) – but he was,  in his poetic passion, giving expression to his full self – his ugly thoughts as well as his ideas and yearnings.  In that sense Baraka was ordinary not special – yet he was egocentric enough to want to ‘say it all’.

About the criticisms against the “prejudices” evident in his work he has said:

“The anger was part of the mindset created by, first, the assassination of John Kennedy, followed by the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, followed by the assassination of Malcolm X – amidst the lynching, and national oppression. A few years later, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. What changed my mind was that I became a Marxist, after recognizing classes within the Black community…..”

ZP_Muhammad Ali with Malcolm X in the background_1964 photograph by Robert L. Haggins

ZP_Muhammad Ali with Malcolm X in the background_1964 photograph by Robert L. Haggins

Baraka’s poetry from the 1990s took as its template Blues and Jazz structures and he penned poems that in their own weird ways honoured Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk and Sun Ra.  There was also polemic and vitriol, sometimes downright pessimistic, in poems about Clarence Thomas and Spike Lee.  Still “making poetry and politics reciprocal forms of action”, as Rosenthal had described Baraka in the early 1970s, it came as no surprise when the poet wrote an inflammatory poem, “Somebody Blew Up America”, about the September 11th, 2001, World Trade Center attack.

.     .     .     .     .

All poems © Amiri Baraka


Amiri Baraka and Langston Hughes: “Throw jesus out yr mind” / “Goodbye, Christ”

ZP_photograph by Fundi_Billy Abernathy_from the 1970 Imamu Amiri Baraka book In Our Terribleness

ZP_photograph by Fundi_Billy Abernathy_from the 1970 Imamu Amiri Baraka book In Our Terribleness

Amiri Baraka (born 1934, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.)

“When We’ll Worship Jesus”

(written after 1970, published in Baraka’s poetry collection “Hard Facts”, 1975)

.

We’ll worship Jesus

When Jesus do

Something

When jesus blow up

the white house

or blast nixon down

when jesus turn out congress

or bust general motors to

yard bird motors

jesus we’ll worship jesus

when jesus get down

when jesus get out his yellow lincoln

w/the built in cross stain glass

window & box w/black peoples

enemies we’ll worship jesus when

he get bad enough to at least scare

somebody – cops not afraid

of jesus

pushers not afraid

of jesus, capitalists racists

imperialists not afraid

of jesus shit they makin money

off jesus

we’ll worship jesus when mao

do, when toure does

when the cross replaces Nkrumah’s

star

Jesus need to hurt some a our

enemies, then we’ll check him

out, all that screaming and hollering

& wallering and moaning talkin bout

jesus, jesus, in a red

check velvet vine + 8 in.heels

jesus pinky finger

got a goose egg ruby

which actual bleeds

jesus at the Apollo

doin splits and helpin

nixon trick niggers

jesus  w/his one eyed self

tongue kissing johnny carson

up the behind

jesus need to be busted

jesus need to be thrown down and whipped

till something better happen

jesus aint did nothin for us

but kept us turned toward the

sky (him and his boy allah

too, need to be checkd out!)

we’ll worship jesus when he get a boat load of ak-47s

and some dynamite

and blow up abernathy robotin

for gulf

jesus need to be busted

we ain’t gonna worship nobody

but niggers getting up off

the ground

not gon worship jesus

unless he just a tricked up

nigger somebody named

outside his race

need to worship yo self fo

you worship jesus

need to bust jesus ( + check

out his spooky brother

allah while you heavy

on the case

cause we ain gon worship jesus

we aint gon worship

jesus

not till he do something

not till he help us

not till the world get changed

and he ain, jesus ain, he cant change the world

we can change the world

we can struggle against the forces of backwardness, we can

change the world

we can struggle against our selves, our slowness, our connection

with

the oppressor, the very cultural aggression which binds us to

our enemies

as their slaves.

we can change the world

we aint gonna worship jesus cause jesus dont exist

xcept in song and story except in ritual and dance, except in

slum stained

tears or trillion dollar opulence stretching back in history, the

history

of the oppression of the human mind

we worship the strength in us

we worship our selves

we worship the light in us

we worship the warmth in us

we worship the world

we worship the love in us

we worship our selves

we worship nature

We worship ourselves

we worship the life in us, and science, and knowledge, and

transformation

of the visible world

but we aint gonna worship no jesus

we aint gonna legitimize the witches and devils and spooks and

hobgoblins

the sensuous lies of the rulers to keep us chained to fantasy and

illusion

sing about life, not jesus

sing about revolution, not no jesus

stop singing about jesus,

sing about creation, our creation, the life of the world and

fantastic

nature how we struggle to transform it, but dont victimize our

selves by

distorting the world

stop moanin about jesus, stop sweatin and crying and stompin

and dyin for jesus

unless thats the name of the army we building to force the land

finally to

change hands.  And lets not call that jesus, get a quick

consensus, on that,

lets damn sure not call that black fire muscle

no invisible psychic dungeon

no gentle vision strait jacket, lets call that peoples army, or

wapenduzi or

simba

wachanga, but we not gon call it jesus, and not gon worship

jesus, throw

jesus out yr mind.  Build the new world out of reality, and new

vision

we come to find out what there is of the world

to understand what there is here in the world!

to visualize change, and force it.

we worship revolution

 

.     .     .     .     .

 

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

“Goodbye, Christ” (published in “The Negro Worker” Socialist journal, Nov.-Dec. 1932)

.

Listen, Christ,

You did alright in your day, I reckon –

But that day’s gone now.

They ghosted you up a swell story, too,

Called it Bible –

But it’s dead now.

The popes and the preachers’ve

Made too much money from it.

They’ve sold you too many

.

Kings, generals, robbers, and killers –

Even to the Tzar and the Cossacks,

Even to Rockefeller’s Church,

Even to “The Saturday Evening Post”.

You ain’t no good no more.

They’ve pawned you

Till you’ve done wore out.

.

Goodbye,

Christ Jesus Lord God Jehova,

Beat it on away from here now.

Make way for a new guy with no religion at all –

a real guy named

Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin Worker ME

I said, ME!

.

Go ahead on now,

You’re getting in the way of things, Lord.

And please take Saint Gandhi with you when you go,

And Saint Pope Pius,

And Saint Aimee McPherson,

And big black Saint Becton

Of the Consecrated Dime.

And step on the gas, Christ!

Move!

.

Don’t be so slow about movin’!

The world is mine from now on –

And nobody’s gonna sell ME

To a king, or a general,

Or a millionaire.

ZP_Negro Worker_1938 lithograph by James Lescesne Wells

ZP_Negro Worker_1938 lithograph by James Lescesne Wells

Langston Hughes

“A Christian Country” (Feb. 1931)

.

God slumbers in a back alley

With a gin bottle in His hand.

Come on, God, get up and fight

Like a man.

 

.     .     .

 

Langston Hughes

“Tired” (Feb. 1931)

.

I am so tired of waiting,

Aren’t you?

For the world to become good

And beautiful and kind.

Let us take a knife

And cut the world in two –

And see what worms are eating

At the rind.

 

.     .     .

 

Langston Hughes

“Bitter Brew” (1967, published posthumously)

.

Whittle me down

To a strong thin reed

With a piercing tip

To match my need.

.

Spin me out

To a tensile wire

To derrick the stones

Of my problems higher.

.

Then simmer me slow

In the freedom cup

Till only an essence

Is left to sup.

.

May that essence be

The black poison of me

To give the white bellies

The third degree.

.

Concocted by history

Brewed by fate –

A bitter concentrate

Of hate.

.     .     .     .     .

It may seem curious to place Langston Hughes on the same page with Amiri Baraka yet these two strikingly different poets do intersect.  Both wrote passionate and angry poems about Jesus Christ – about belief in Jesus Christ – during periods when each was exploring elements of one of those other great world religions:  Socialism/Communism.

.

Though the life lived by Hughes appears to have been more conservative and/or Bohemian-Establishment than Baraka’s, Hughes’ conventional rhyming verse poetry shows real guts.  The poem “Goodbye, Christ” haunted Hughes, being re-printed and circulated by zealously orthodox American Christians , becoming a thorn that pierced Hughes’ side from 1940 onward when the FBI put the poet under surveillance for alleged Communist activity.  He was denounced as a communist by a U.S. senator in 1948 and was subpoena’d in 1953 to appear before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s subcommittee on subversive “un-American” activities.  It “exonerated” him because it couldn’t link him to anyone juicy to nail.  Though Hughes had been involved in Leftist politics – his “turning” came after a trip to Haiti in 1931 (followed by visits to Moscow in 1932-33 and Spain in 1937) – he was never a member of any Socialist or Communist party organization.

.

We have included what is believed to be one of the last poems Langston Hughes wrote before he died in 1967:  “Bitter Brew”.  In miniature it quick-sketches the emotional and psychological geography for the new-angry Black America that an up-and-coming LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka would map out in greater detail…

.     .     .     .     .


Langston Hughes: “Montage of a Dream Deferred”

February 2013_1

Langston Hughes (born February 1st 1902, died 1967)

“Montage of a Dream Deferred” (1951):  a selection of poems

.

“Children’s Rhymes”

.

When I was a chile we used to play,

“One – two – buckle my shoe!”

and things like that.  But now, Lord,

listen at them little varmints!

.

By what sends

the white kids

I ain’t sent:

I know I can’t

be President.

.

There is two thousand children

In this block, I do believe!

.

What don’t bug

them white kids

sure bugs me:

We knows everybody

ain’t free!

.

Some of these young ones is cert’ly bad –

One batted a hard ball right through my window

And my gold fish et the glass.

.

What’s written down

for white folks

ain’t for us a-tall:

“Liberty And Justice –

Huh – For All.”

.

Oop-pop-a-da!

Skee!  Daddle-de-do!

Be-bop!

.

Salt’ peanuts!

.

De-dop!

 

.     .     .

 

“Necessity”

.

Work?

I don’t have to work.

I don’t have to do nothing

but eat, drink, stay black, and die.

This little old furnished room’s

so small I can’t whip a cat

without getting fur in my mouth

and my landlady’s so old

her features is all run together

and God knows she sure can overcharge –

which is why I reckon I does

have to work after all.

 

.     .     .

 

“Question (2)”

.

Said the lady, Can you do

what my other man can’t do –

that is

love me, daddy –

and feed me, too?

.

Figurine

.

De-dop!

 

.     .     .

 

“Easy Boogie”

.

Down in the bass

That steady beat

Walking walking walking

Like marching feet.

.

Down in the bass

That easy roll,

Rolling like I like it

In my soul.

.

Riffs, smears, breaks.

.

Hey, Lawdy, Mama!

Do you hear what I said?

Easy like I rock it

In my bed!

 

.     .     .

 

“What?  So Soon!”

.

I believe my old lady’s

pregnant again!

Fate must have

some kind of trickeration

to populate the

cllud nation!

Comment against Lamp Post

You call it fate?

Figurette

De-daddle-dy!

De-dop!

 

.     .     .

 

“Tomorrow”

.

Tomorrow may be

a thousand years off:

TWO DIMES AND A NICKEL ONLY

Says this particular

cigarette machine.

.

Others take a quarter straight.

.

Some dawns

wait.

 

.     .     .

 

“Café:  3 a.m.”

.

Detectives from the vice squad

with weary sadistic eyes

spotting fairies.

Degenerates,

some folks say.

.

But God, Nature,

or somebody

made them that way.

Police lady or Lesbian

over there?

Where?

.     .     .

 

“125th Street”

.

Face like a chocolate bar

full of nuts and sweet.

.

Face like a jack-o’-lantern,

candle inside.

.

Face like a slice of melon,

grin that wide.

 

.     .     .

 

“Up-Beat”

.

In the gutter

boys who try

might meet girls

on the fly

as out of the gutter

girls who will

may meet boys

copping a thrill

while from the gutter

both can rise:

But it requires

Plenty eyes.

 

February 2013_2

“Mystery”

.

When a chile gets to be thirteen

and ain’t seen Christ yet,

she needs to set on de moaner’s bench

night and day.

.

Jesus, lover of my soul!

.

Hail, Mary, mother of God!

.

Let me to thy bosom fly!

.

Amen!  Hallelujah!

.

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

.

Sunday morning where the rhythm flows,

How old nobody knows –

yet old as mystery,

older than creed,

basic and wondering

and lost as my need.

.

Eli, eli!

Te deum!

Mahomet!

Christ!

.

Father Bishop, Effendi, Mother Horne,

Father Divine, a Rabbi black

as black was born,

a jack-leg preacher, a Ph.D.

.

The mystery

and the darkness

and the song

and me.

 

.     .     .

 

“Nightmare Boogie”

.

I had a dream

and I could see

a million faces

black as me!

A nightmare dream:

Quicker than light

All them faces

Turned dead white!

Boogie-woogie,

Rolling bass,

Whirling treble

Of cat-gut lace.

 

.     .     .

 

“Blues at Dawn”

.

I don’t dare start thinking in the morning.

I don’t dare start thinking in the morning.

If I thought thoughts in bed,

Them thoughts would bust my head –

So I don’t dare start thinking in the morning.

.

I don’t dare remember in the morning

Don’t dare remember in the morning.

If I recall the day before,

I wouldn’t get up no more –

So I don’t dare remember in the morning.

 

.     .     .

 

“Neighbour”

.

Down home

he sets on a stoop

and watches the sun go by.

In Harlem

when his work is done

he sets in a bar with a beer.

He looks taller than he is

and younger than he ain’t.

He looks darker than he is, too.

And he’s smarter than he looks,

He ain’t smart.

That cat’s a fool.

Naw, he ain’t neither.

He’s a good man,

except that he talks too much.

In fact, he’s a great cat.

But when he drinks,

he drinks fast.

Sometimes

he don’t drink.

True,

he just

lets his glass

set there.

 

.     .     .

 

“Subway Rush Hour”

.

Mingled

breath and smell

so close

mingled

black and white

so near

no room for fear.

 

.     .     .

 

“Brothers”

.

We’re related – you and I,

You from the West Indies,

I from Kentucky.

.

Kinsmen – you and I,

You from Africa,

I from U.S.A.

.

Brothers – you and I.

 

.     .     .

 

“Sliver”

.

Cheap little rhymes

A cheap little tune

Are sometimes as dangerous

As a sliver of the moon.

A cheap little tune

To cheap little rhymes

Can cut a man’s

Throat sometimes.

 

.     .     .

 

“Hope (2)”

.

He rose up on his dying bed

and asked for fish.

His wife looked it up in her dream book

and played it.

 

.     .     .

 

“Harlem (2)”

.

What happens to a dream deferred?

.

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore –

and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over –

like a syrupy sweet?

.

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

.

Or does it explode?

 

.     .     .

 

“Letter”

.

Dear Mama,

Time I pay rent and get my food

and laundry I don’t have much left

but here is five dollars for you

to show you I still appreciates you.

My girl-friend send her love and say

she hopes to lay eyes on you sometime in life.

Mama, it has been raining cats and dogs up

here.  Well, that is all so I will close.

You son baby

Respectably as ever,

Joe

 

.     .     .

 

“Motto”

.

I play it cool

And dig all jive.

That’s the reason

I stay alive.

.

My motto,

As I live and learn,

Is:

Dig And Be Dug

In Return.

 

 

.     .     .     .     .

From Hughes’ introduction to his 1951 collection “Montage of a Dream Deferred”:

“In terms of current Afro-American popular music and the sources from which it has progressed – jazz, ragtime, swing, blues, boogie-woogie, and be-bop – this poem on contemporary Harlem, like be-bop, is marked by conflicting changes, sudden nuances, sharp and impudent interjections, broken rhythms, and passages sometimes in the manner of the jam session, sometimes the popular song, punctuated by the riffs, runs, breaks, and distortions of the music of a community in transition.”

 

February 2013_3

 

Editor’s note:

Langston Hughes’ poems “Theme for English B” and “Advice” – both of which were included in his publication of “Montage of a Dream Deferred” – are featured in separate Hughes’ posts on Zócalo Poets.

.     .     .     .     .

“Montage of a Dream Deferred”- from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad, with David Roessel, 1994

All poems © The Estate of Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes: “Tarea para el segundo curso de inglés” / “Theme for English B”, translated into Spanish by Óscar Paúl Castro

ZP_Langston Hughes_pastel drawing by Winold Reiss

ZP_Langston Hughes_pastel drawing by Winold Reiss

Langston Hughes (1 febrero 1902 – 1967)

“Tarea para el segundo curso de inglés”

.

El profesor nos dijo:

Pueden irse a casa.

Esta noche escribirán una página:

que lo que escriban venga de ustedes,

así expresarán algo auténtico.

.

Me pregunto si es así de simple.

Tengo veintidós años, soy de color, nací en Winston-Salem.

Ahí asistí a la escuela, después en Durham, después aquí.

La Universidad está sobre la colina, dominando Harlem.

Soy el único estudiante de color en la clase.

Las escaleras que descienden por la colina desembocan en Harlem:

después de atravesar un parque, cruzar la calle san Nicolás,

la Octava Avenida, la Séptima, llego hasta el edificio “Y”

― la YMCA de Harlem Branch ― donde tomo el elevador,

entro en mi cuarto, me siento y escribo esta página:

.

Para ti no debe ser fácil poder identificar lo que es auténtico, tampoco lo es

para mí a esta edad: veintidós años. Supongo, sin embargo, que en todo

lo que siento, veo y escucho, Harlem, te escucho a ti:

te escucho, me escuchas; tú y yo ―juntos― estamos en esta página.

(También escucho a Nueva York) ¿Quién eres―Quién soy?

Bien: me gusta comer, dormir, beber, estar enamorado.

Me gusta trabajar, leer, me gusta aprender, e intentar comprender el sentido de la vida.

Quisiera una pipa como regalo de Navidad,

quizás unos discos: Bessie, bebop, o Bach.

Supongo que el hecho de ser negro no significa que me gusten

cosas distintas a las que les gustan a personas de otras razas.

¿En esta página que escribo se notará mi color?

Ciertamente ―siendo lo que soy― no será una página en blanco.

Y sin embargo

será parte de usted, maestro.

Usted es blanco,

y aun así es parte de mí, como yo soy parte de usted.

Eso significa ser americano.

Quizá usted no quiera ser parte de mí a veces.

Y en ocasiones yo no quiero ser parte de usted.

Pero, indudablemente, ambos somos parte del otro.

Yo aprendo de usted,

y supongo que usted aprende de mí:

aun cuando usted es mayor ―y blanco―

y, de alguna forma, más libre.

.

Está es mi tarea del Segundo Curso de Inglés.

(1951)

.     .     .

Langston Hughes (born February 1st 1902, died 1967)

“Theme for English B”

.

The instructor said,

Go home and write

a page tonight.

And let that page come out of you –

Then, it will be true.

.

I wonder if it’s that simple?

I am twenty-two, coloured, born in Winston-Salem.

I went to school there, then Durham, then here

to this college on the hill above Harlem.

I am the only coloured student in my class.

The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem

through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,

Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,

the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator

up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

.

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me

at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what

I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:

hear you, hear me – we two – you, me, talk on this page.

(I hear New York too.) Me – who?

Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.

I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.

I like a pipe for a Christmas present,

or records – Bessie, bop, or Bach.

I guess being coloured doesn’t make me not like

the same things other folks like who are other races.

So will my page be coloured that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.

But it will be

a part of you, instructor.

You are white –

yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That’s American.

Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that’s true!

As I learn from you,

I guess you learn from me –

although you’re older – and white –

and somewhat more free.

.

This is my page for English B.

(1951)

.     .     .

Traducción en español © Óscar Paúl Castro (nace 1979, Culiacán, México)

Óscar Paúl Castro, un poeta y traductor, es licenciado en Lengua y Literatura Hispánicas por la Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa. 

.     .     .     .     .


Josephine Baker, née Freda Josephine McDonald, was born in St. Louis in 1906.  In 1921 she ventured to New York City, danced at The Plantation Club in Harlem, and became a popular and well-paid chorus girl in Broadway revues.  In 1925 she travelled to Paris where she wowed 'em with her athletic elegance and fresh humour.  Parisians were mad for all things “Negro” and “Exotic” so Baker shrewdly “invented” herself for France – yet somehow remained sincere and real.  She became a French citizen, spied on the Nazis for her government during WW2, raised a dozen adopted children – her rainbow tribe – and, from the 1950s onward, was a tireless campaigner for Civil Rights in the U.S.A.  She died peacefully in 1975 after having given a performance at the Bobino music-hall theatre in Montparnasse.

Josephine Baker, née Freda Josephine McDonald, was born in St. Louis in 1906. In 1921 she ventured to New York City, danced at The Plantation Club in Harlem, and became a popular and well-paid chorus girl in Broadway revues. In 1925 she travelled to Paris where she wowed ‘em with her athletic elegance and fresh humour. Parisians were mad for all things “Negro” and “Exotic” so Baker shrewdly “invented” herself for France – yet somehow remained sincere and real. She became a French citizen, spied on the Nazis for her government during WW2, raised a dozen adopted children – her rainbow tribe – and, from the 1950s onward, was a tireless campaigner for Civil Rights in the U.S.A. She died peacefully in 1975 after having given a performance at the Bobino music-hall theatre in Montparnasse.

ZP_Aaron Douglas' 1929 dustjacket illustration for The Blacker the Berry - A Novel of Negro Life, by Wallace Thurman 1902-1934

ZP_Aaron Douglas’ 1929 dustjacket illustration for The Blacker the Berry – A Novel of Negro Life, by Wallace Thurman 1902-1934

ZP_Claude McKay, 1889-1948, Jamaican-born author of the frank and intense 1928 novel, Home to Harlem

ZP_Claude McKay, 1889-1948, Jamaican-born author of the frank and intense 1928 novel, Home to Harlem

ZP_Bessie Smith, 1894 to 1937, was the biggest Blues singer of the 1920s.  Poet Langston Hughes would've been familiar with her spicy lyrics.

ZP_Bessie Smith, 1894 to 1937, was the biggest Blues singer of the 1920s. Her sexual frankness through the use of metaphor is an absolute marvel – even in 2013. Poet Langston Hughes would’ve been familiar with her spicy lyrics.

Bessie Smith

Empty Bed Blues” (recorded in 1928, lyrics by Smith)

.

I woke up this morning with a awful aching head
I woke up this morning with a awful aching head
My new man had left me, just a room and a empty bed
.
Bought me a coffee grinder that’s the best one I could find
Bought me a coffee grinder that’s the best one I could find
Oh, he could grind my coffee, ’cause he had a brand new grind
.
He’s a deep sea diver with a stroke that can’t go wrong
He’s a deep sea diver with a stroke that can’t go wrong
He can stay at the bottom and his wind holds out so long
.
He knows how to thrill me and he thrills me night and day
Oh, he knows how to thrill me, he thrills me night and day
He’s got a new way of loving, almost takes my breath away
.
Lord, he’s got that sweet somethin’ and I told my girlfriend Lou
He’s got that sweet somethin’ and I told my girlfriend Lou
From the way she’s raving, she must have gone and tried it too
.

When my bed get empty make me feel awful mean and blue
When my bed get empty make me feel awful mean and blue
My springs are getting rusty, sleeping single like I do
.


Bought him a blanket, pillow for his head at night
Bought him a blanket, pillow for his head at night
Then I bought him a mattress so he could lay just right
.
He came home one evening with his spirit way up high
He came home one evening with his spirit way up high
What he had to give me, make me wring my hands and cry
.
He give me a lesson that I never had before
He give me a lesson that I never had before
When he got to teachin’ me, from my elbow down was sore
.
He boiled my first cabbage and he made it awful hot
He boiled my first cabbage and he made it awful hot
When he put in the bacon, it overflowed the pot
.
When you git good lovin’, never go and spread the news
Yes, he’ll double-cross you, and leave you with them empty bed blues.

ZP_Gladys Bentley, 1907 - 1960, in a retouched and colourized 1920s photograph_Bentley was an openly lesbian Blues singer who often performed at Clam House, a gay speakeasy in Harlem.

ZP_Gladys Bentley, 1907 – 1960, in a retouched and colourized 1920s photograph_Bentley was an openly lesbian Blues singer who often performed at Clam House, a gay speakeasy in Harlem.

ZP_Fire!, the 1926 one-issue-only Harlem literary journal that shocked the Black middle-class

ZP_Fire!, the 1926 one-issue-only Harlem literary journal that appalled and offended the Black middle-class

ZP_Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, 1874 - 1938_PuertoRican-born and  mixed race, he settled in Harlem in the 1890s and was determined to untangle and reveal the African thread in the fabric of the Americas.  Historian and activist, Schomburg was one of the intellectual backbones of The Harlem Renaissance.

ZP_Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, 1874 – 1938_PuertoRican-born and mixed race, he settled in Harlem in the 1890s and was determined to untangle and reveal the African thread in the fabric of the Americas. Historian and activist, Schomburg was one of the intellectual backbones of The Harlem Renaissance.

ZP_The Crisis -  A Record of the Darker Races, founded in 1910, was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's monthly journal. Edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, it featured, in a 1921 issue, the first published poem of a 19 year old Langston Hughes - The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

ZP_The Crisis – A Record of the Darker Races, founded in 1910, was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s monthly journal. Edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, it featured, in a 1921 issue, the first published poem of a 19 year old Langston Hughes – The Negro Speaks of Rivers.


Love poems, Blues poems – from The Harlem Renaissance

ZP_Dance_by Aaron Douglas

ZP_Dance_by Aaron Douglas 1899-1979

Love poems, Blues poems – from The Harlem Renaissance:

Langston Hughes verses composed between 1924 and 1930:

.     .     .

“Subway Face”

.

That I have been looking

For you all my life

Does not matter to you.

You do not know.

.

You never knew.

Nor did I.

Now you take the Harlem train uptown;

I take a local down.

(1924)

.     .     .

“Poem (2)” (To F. S.)

.

I loved my friend.

He went away from me.

There’s nothing more to say.

The poem ends,

Soft as it began –

I loved my friend.

(1925)

.     .     .

“Better”

.

Better in the quiet night

To sit and cry alone

Than rest my head on another’s shoulder

After you have gone.

.

Better, in the brilliant day,

Filled with sun and noise,

To listen to no song at all

Than hear another voice.

.     .     .

“Poem (4)” (To the Black Beloved)

.

Ah,

My black one,

Thou art not beautiful

Yet thou hast

A loveliness

Surpassing beauty.

.

Oh,

My black one,

Thou art not good

Yet thou hast

A purity

Surpassing goodness.

.

Ah,

My black one,

Thou art not luminous

Yet an altar of jewels,

An altar of shimmering jewels,

Would pale in the light

Of thy darkness,

Pale in the light

Of thy nightness.

.     .     .

“The Ring”

.

Love is the master of the ring

And life a circus tent.

What is this silly song you sing?

Love is the master of the ring.

.

I am afraid!

Afraid of Love

And of Love’s bitter whip!

Afraid,

Afraid of Love

And Love’s sharp, stinging whip.

.

What is this silly song you sing?

Love is the master of the ring.

(1926)

.     .     .

“Ma Man”

.

When ma man looks at me

He knocks me off ma feet.

When ma man looks at me

He knocks me off ma feet.

He’s got those ‘lectric-shockin’ eyes an’

De way he shocks me sho is sweet.

.

He kin play a banjo.

Lordy, he kin plunk, plunk, plunk.

He kin play a banjo.

I mean plunk, plunk…plunk, plunk.

He plays good when he’s sober

An’ better, better, better when he’s drunk.

.

Eagle-rockin’,

Daddy, eagle-rock with me.

Eagle rockin’,

Come an’ eagle-rock with me.

Honey baby,

Eagle-rockish as I kin be!

.     .     .

“Lament over Love”

.

I hope my child’ll

Never love a man.

I say I hope my child’ll

Never love a man.

Love can hurt you

Mo’n anything else can.

.

I’m goin’ down to the river

An’ I ain’t goin’ there to swim;

Down to the river,

Ain’t goin’ there to swim.

My true love’s left me

And I’m goin’ there to think about him.

.

Love is like whiskey,

Love is like red, red wine.

Love is like whiskey,

Like sweet red wine.

If you want to be happy

You got to  love all the time.

.

I’m goin’ up in a tower

Tall as a tree is tall,

Up in a tower

Tall as a tree is tall.

Gonna think about my man –

And let my fool-self fall.

(1926)

.     .     .

“Dressed Up”

.

I had ma clothes cleaned

Just like new.

I put ’em on but

I still feels blue.

.

I bought a new hat,

Sho is fine,

But I wish I had back that

Old gal o’ mine.

.

I got new shoes –

They don’t hurt ma feet,

But I ain’t got nobody

For to call me sweet.

.     .     .

“To a Little Lover-Lass, Dead”

.

She

Who searched for lovers

In the night

Has gone the quiet way

Into the still,

Dark land of death

Beyond the rim of day.

.

Now like a little lonely waif

She walks

An endless street

And gives her kiss to nothingness.

Would God his lips were sweet!

.     .     .

“Harlem Night Song”

.

Come,

Let us roam the night together

Singing.

.

I love you.

Across

The Harlem roof-tops

Moon is shining.

Night sky is blue.

Stars are great drops

Of golden dew.

.

Down the street

A band is playing.

.

I love you.

.

Come,

Let us roam the night together

Singing.

.     .     .

“Passing Love”

.

Because you are to me a song

I must not sing you over-long.

.

Because you are to me a prayer

I  cannot say you everywhere.

.

Because you are to me a rose –

You will not stay when summer goes.

(1927)

.     .     .

“Desire”

.

Desire to us

Was like a double death,

Swift dying

Of our mingled breath,

Evaporation

Of an unknown strange perfume

Between us quickly

In a naked

Room.

.     .     .

“Dreamer”

.

I take my dreams

And make of them a bronze vase,

And a wide round fountain

With a beautiful statue in its centre,

And a song with a broken heart,

And I ask you:

Do you understand my dreams?

Sometimes you say you do

And sometimes you say you don’t.

Either way

It doesn’t matter.

I continue to dream.

(1927)

.     .     .

“Lover’s Return”

.

My old time daddy

Came back home last night.

His face was pale and

His eyes didn’t look just right.

.

He says, “Mary, I’m

Comin’ home to you –

So sick and lonesome

I don’t know what to do.”

.

Oh, men treats women

Just like a pair o’ shoes –

You kicks ’em round and

Does ’em like you choose.

.

I looked at my daddy –

Lawd! and I wanted to cry.

He looked so thin –

Lawd! that I wanted to cry.

But the devil told me:

Damn a lover

Come home to die!

(1928)

.     .     .

“Hurt”

.

Who cares

About the hurt in your heart?

.

Make a song like this

for a jazz band to play:

Nobody cares.

Nobody cares.

Make a song like that

From your lips.

Nobody cares.

.     .     .

“Spring for Lovers”

.

Desire weaves its fantasy of dreams,

And all the world becomes a garden close

In which we wander, you and I together,

Believing in the symbol of the rose,

Believing only in the heart’s bright flower –

Forgetting – flowers wither in an hour.

(1930)

.     .     .

“Rent-Party Shout:  For a Lady Dancer”

.

Whip it to a jelly!

Too bad Jim!

Mamie’s got ma man –

An’ I can’t find him.

Shake that thing!  O!

Shake it slow!

That man I love is

Mean an’ low.

Pistol an’ razor!

Razor an’ gun!

If I sees man man he’d

Better run –

For  I’ll shoot him in de shoulder,

Else I’ll cut him down,

Cause I knows I can find him

When he’s in de ground –

Then can’t no other women

Have him layin’ round.

So play it, Mr. Nappy!

Yo’ music’s fine!

I’m gonna kill that

Man o’ mine!

(1930)

.     .     .     .     .

In the manner of all great poets Langston Hughes (February 1st, 1902 – 1967) wrote love poems (and love-blues poems), using the voices and perspectives of both Man and Woman.  In addition to such art, Hughes’ homosexuality, real though undisclosed during his lifetime, probably was responsible for the subtle and highly-original poet’s voice he employed for three of the poems included here:  Subway Face, Poem (2), and Desire.  Hughes was among a wealth of black migrants born in The South or the Mid-West who gravitated toward Harlem in New York City from about 1920 onward.  Along with Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman and many others, Hughes became part of The Harlem Renaissance, that great-gorgeous fresh-flowering of Black-American culture.

.     .     .     .     .


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