Hoy, Zócalo Poets llegan a las 100 mil visitas…Today we reach our 100 thousandth visitor…

ZP_Joyfully I see ten caribou !  Stonecut print by Inuit artist Kananginak Pootoogook

Hoy llegamos a las 100 mil visitasToday we reach our 100 thousandth visitor at ZP


Hoy, Zócalo Poets llegan a las cien mil visitas de nuestras páginas de web – desde mayo de 2011.  Les agradecemos a ustedes – los lectores de ZP.

Los paises-visitantes los 10 principales son:   México, EE.UU., Perú, Canadá, Bolivia, India, Reino Unido, Argentina, España, Francia.


Los 5 idiomas más buscados en nuestro sitio de web son:

1.  Español

2.  Inglés

3.  Quechua

4.  Maya

5.  Francés


Entre 300+ aportes de poemas los 10 más buscados son:

Poemas de amor del idioma maya,

Poemas de amor en el idioma quechua / Sunqupa Harawinkuna,

Poemas de amor del idioma zapoteco,

Poemas para el Día de la Madre – la Madre Luna, la Madre de Dios y la Madre Patata – todos del idioma quechua,

Poema para el Día de Acción de Gracias,

Nezahualcoyotzin: in xochitl in cuicatl / Nezahualcóyotl: su ‘flor y canto”(poesía náhuatl)…y poemas del siglo xxi, inspirados en él,

Oración a La Virgen de Guadalupe,

Macuilxochitzin / Macuilxóchitl: poesía mexica del siglo xv,

Nicolás Guillén: Bongo Song / La canción del bongo,

Louise Bennett-Coverley and Jamaican Patois: a unique truth.

.     .     .

Zócalo Poets has just reached the 100,000 mark – that’s how many of you have visited our multilingual poetry website since we began in May of 2011.

We are grateful to our readers – keep spreading the word!  Poetry enlarges our lives, and its emotional, intellectual and spiritual value for us cannot be quantified;  we need it.


Our top ten visitor-countries are:

Mexico, U.S.A., Peru, Canada, Bolivia, India, United Kingdom, Argentina, Spain, and France.


Our 5 most-searched-for poem-languages are:

1.  Spanish

2.  English

3.  Quechua

4.  Maya

5.  French


Among 300-plus searched-for poetry posts our top 10 are:

Poemas de amor del idioma maya,

Poemas de amor en el idioma quechua / Sunqupa Harawinkuna,

Poemas de amor del idioma zapoteco,

Poemas para el Día de la Madre – la Madre Luna, la Madre de Dios y la Madre Patata – todos del idioma quechua,

Poema para el Día de Acción de Gracias,

Nezahualcoyotzin: in xochitl in cuicatl / Nezahualcóyotl: su ‘flor y canto”(poesía náhuatl)…y poemas del siglo xxi, inspirados en él,

Oración a La Virgen de Guadalupe,

Macuilxochitzin / Macuilxóchitl: poesía mexica del siglo xv,

Nicolás Guillén: Bongo Song / La canción del bongo,

Louise Bennett-Coverley and Jamaican Patois: a unique truth.

.     .     .     .     .

Illustration:  ” Joyfully I see ten caribou ! ”  Stonecut print by Inuit artist Kananginak Pootoogook

Audrey Lorde and Essex Hemphill: Mothers and Fathers


Audre Lorde and Essex Hemphill

Two Black-American poets: one a New Yorker from Harlem with family roots in Grenada and Barbados, the other growing up in Washington D.C. with roots in Columbia, South Carolina; one a passionately political Lesbian with children, the other a passionately political Gay man who would die of complications from AIDS.  Both of these writers, in poems and essays combining clear thinking with deep feeling – and in the facts of their lived lives – sought to widen what later came to be known as “identity politics”.  Their work goes far beyond it, establishing a universality of truth.  In the poems below Lorde and Hemphill reflect upon the meaning of relationship (and sometimes the lack thereof) with their mothers and fathers. These are poems of great intimacy and intelligence with head and heart in thrilling unison.


Audre Lorde in Berlin_1984_photograph © Dagmar Schultz


Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992)

Legacy – Hers”


When love leaps from my mouth

cadenced in that Grenada wisdom

upon which I first made holy war

then I must reassess

all my mother’s words

or every path I cherish.


Like everything else I learned from Linda*

this message hurtles across still uncalm air

silent tumultuous freed water

descending an imperfect drain.


I learn how to die from your many examples

cracking the code of your living

heroisms collusions invisibilities

constructing my own

book of your last hours

how we tried to connect

in that bland spotless room

one bright Black woman

to another bred for endurance

for battle


island women make good wives

whatever happens they’ve seen worse…


your last word to me was wonderful

and I am still seeking the rest

of that terrible acrostic


(from Lorde’s collection The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance, 1993)

*Linda was the name of Lorde’s mother.

.     .     .

Audre Lorde

Father Son and Holy Ghost”


I have not ever seen my father’s grave.


Not that his judgement eyes have been


nor his great hands’ print

on our evening doorknobs

one half turn each night

and he would come

drabbled with the world’s business

massive and silent as the whole day’s wish

ready to redefine each of our shapes –

but that now the evening doorknobs wait

and do not recognize us as we pass.


Each week a different woman –

regular as his one quick glass each evening –

pulls up the grass his stillness grows

calling it week. Each week

A different woman has my mother’s face

and he, who time has,


must be amazed

who knew and loved but one.


My father died in silence, loving creation

and well-defined response.

He lived

still judgements on familiar things

and died

knowing a January 15th that year me.


Lest I go into dust

I have not ever seen my father’s grave.


(1968, revised 1976)

.     .     .

Audre Lorde

Inheritance – His”




My face resembles your face

less and less each day. When I was young

no one mistook whose child I was.

Features build colouring

alone among my creamy fine-boned sisters

marked me *Byron’s daughter.


No sun set when you died, but a door

opened onto my mother. After you left

she grieved her crumpled world aloft

an iron fist sweated with business symbols

a printed blotter. dwell in a house of Lord’s

your hollow voice chanting down a hospital corridor

yea, though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death

I will fear no evil.




I rummage through the deaths you lived

swaying on a bridge of question.

At seven in Barbados

dropped into your unknown father’s life

your courage vault from his tailor’s table

back to the sea

Did the Grenada treeferns sing

your 15th summer as you jumped ship

to seek your mother

finding her too late

surrounded with new sons?


Who did you bury to become enforcer of the law

the handsome legend

before whose raised arm even trees wept

a man of deep and wordless passion

who wanted sons and got five girls?

You left the first two scratching in a treefern’s shade

the youngest is a renegade poet

searching for your answer in my blood.


My mother’s Grenville tales

spin through early summer evenings.

But you refused to speak of home

of stepping proud Black and penniless

into this land where only white men

ruled by money. How you laboured

in the docks of the Hotel Astor

your bright wife a chambermaid upstairs

welded love and survival to ambition

as the land of promise withered

crashed the hotel closed

and you peddle dawn-bought apples

from a pushcart on Broadway.

Does an image of return

wealthy and triumphant

warm your chilblained fingers

as you count coins in the Manhattan snow

or is it only Linda

who dreams of home?


When my mother’s first-born cries for milk

in the brutal city winter

do the faces of your other daughters dim

like the image of the treeferned yard

where a dark girl first cooked for you

and her ash heap still smells curry?




Did the secret of my sisters steal your tongue

like I stole money from your midnight pockets

stubborn and quaking

as you threaten to shoot me if I am the one?

the naked lightbulbs in our kitchen ceiling

glint off your service revolver

as you load whispering.


Did two little dark girls in Grenada

dart like flying fish

between your averred eyes

and my pajama-less body

our last adolescent summer

eavesdropped orations

to your shaving mirror

our most intense conversations

were you practising how to tell me

of my twin sisters abandoned

as you had been abandoned

by another Black woman seeking

her fortune Grenada Barbados

Panama Grenada.

New York City.




You bought old books at auction

for my unlanguaged world

gave me your idols Marcus Garvey Citizen Kane

and morsels from your dinner place

when I was seven.

I owe you my Dahomeyan jaw

the free high school for gifted girls

no one else thought I should attend

and the darkness that we share.

Our deepest bonds remain

the mirror and the gun.




An elderly Black judge

known for his way with women

visits this island where I live

shakes my hand, smiling

I knew your father,” he says

quite a man!”  Smiles again.

I flinch at his raised eyebrow.

A long-gone woman’s voice

lashes out at me in parting

You will never be satisfied

until you have the whole world

in your bed!”


Now I am older than you were when you died

overwork and silence exploding in your brain.

You are gradually receding from my face.

Who were you outside the 23rd Psalm?

Knowing so little

how did I become so much

like you?


Your hunger for rectitude

blossoms into rage

the hot tears of mourning

never shed for you before

your twisted measurements

the agony of denial

the power of unshared secrets.


(Written January – September 1992.  From Lorde’s The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance)

*Byron was the name of Lorde’s father.

.     .     .     .     .

Essex Hemphill in 1991


Essex Hemphill (1957 – 1995)

The Father, Son, and Unholy Ghosts”


We are not always
the bravest sons
our fathers dream.
Nor do they always
dream of us.
We don’t always
recognize him
if we have never
seen his face.
We are suspicious
of strangers.
is he the one?


I stand waist deep
in the decadence of forgetting.
The vain act of looking the other way.
Insisting there can be peace
and fecundity without confrontation.
The nagging question of blood hounds me.
How do I honour it?


I don’t understand
our choice of angers,
your domestic violence,
my flaring temper.
I wanted tenderness
to belong to us
more than food or money.
The ghost of my wants
is many things:
lover, guardian angel,
key to our secrets,
the dogs we let sleep.
The rhythm of silence
we do not disturb.


I circle questions of blood.
I give a fierce fire dance.
The flames call me.
It is safe. I leap
unprepared to be brave. I surrender
more frightened of being alone.
I have to do this
to stay alive.
To be acknowledged.
Fire calls. I slither
to the flames
to become birth.


A black hole, gaseous,
blisters around its edge,
swallows our estranged years.
They will never return
except as frightening remembrances
when we are locked in closets
and cannot breathe or scream.

I want to be free, daddy,
of the black hole between us.
The typical black hole.
If we let it be
it will widen enough
to swallow us.
Won’t it?


In my loneliest gestures
learning to live
with less is less.
I forestalled my destiny.
I never wanted
to be your son.
You never
made the choice
to be my father.
What we have learned
from no text book:
is how to live without
one another.
How to evade the stainless truth.
Drug pain bleary-eyed.
Store our waste in tombs
beneath the heart,
knowing at any moment
it could leak out.
And do we expect to survive?
What are we prepared for?
Trenched off.
Communications down.
Angry in alien tongues.
We use extreme weapons
to ward off one another.
Some nights, our opposing reports
are heard as we dream.
Silence is the deadliest weapon.
We both use it.
Precisely. Often.






.     .     .


In the Life”


Mother, do you know

I roam alone at night?

I wear colognes,

tight pants, and

chains of gold,

as I search

for men willing

to come back

to candlelight.


I’m not scared of these men

though some are killers

of sons like me. I learned

there is no tender mercy

for men of colour,

for sons who love men

like me.


Do not feel shame for how I live.

I chose this tribe

of warriors and outlaws.

Do not feel you failed

some test of motherhood.

My life has borne fruit

no woman could have given me



If one of these thick-lipped,

wet, black nights

while I’m out walking,

I find freedom in this village.

If I can take it with my tribe

I’ll bring you here.

And you will never notice

the absence of rice

and bridesmaids.






.     .     .

Audre Lorde poems © The Audre Lorde Estate

Essex Hemphill poems © Cleiss Press

.     .     .     .     .

“And Don’t Think I Won’t Be Waiting”: Love poems by Audre Lorde

ZP_Solar Abstract_copyright photographer Wilda Gerideau-SquiresZP_Solar Abstract_© photographer Wilda Gerideau-Squires

Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992)



I saw

your hands on my lips like blind needles


from sewing up stone


where are you from

you said

your hands reading over my lips for

some road through uncertain night

for your feet to examine home

where are you from

you said

your hands

on my lips like thunder

promising rain


a land where all lovers are mute.



why are you weeping

you said

your hands in my doorway like rainbows

following rain

why are you weeping?


I am come home.


(1968, revised 1976)

.     .     .

Bridge through My Window”


In curve scooped out and necklaced with light

burst pearls stream down my out-stretched arms to earth.

Oh bridge my sister bless me before I sleep

the wild air is lengthening

and I am tried beyond strength or bearing

over water.


Love, we are both shorelines

a left country

where time suffices

and the right land

where pearls roll into earth and spring up day.

joined, our bodies have passage into one

without merging

as this slim necklace is anchored into night.


And while the we conspires

to make secret its two eyes

we search the other shore

for some crossing home.


(1968, revised 1976)

.     .     .

Conversations in Crisis”


I speak to you as a friend speaks

or a true lover

not out of friendship nor love

but for a clear meeting

of self upon self

in sight of our hearth

but without fire.


I cherish your words that ring

like late summer thunders

to sing without octave

and fade, having spoken the season.

But I hear the false heat of this voice

as it dries up the sides of your words

coaxing melodies from your tongue

and this curled music is treason.


Must I die in your fever –

or, as the flames wax, take cover

in your heart’s culverts

crouched like a stranger

under the scorched leaves of your other burnt loves

until the storm passes over?


(1970, revised 1976)

.     .     .



Coming together

it is easier to work

after our bodies


paper and pen

neither care nor profit

whether we write or not

but as your body moves

under my hands

charged and waiting

we cut the leash

you create me against your thighs

hilly with images

moving through our word countries

my body

writes into your flesh

the poem

you make of me.


Touching you I catch midnight

as moon fires set in my throat

I love you flesh into blossom

I made you

and take you made

into me.



.     .     .

And Don’t Think I Won’t Be Waiting”


I am supposed to say

it doesn’t matter look me up some

time when you’re in my neighbourhood


a drink or some books good talk

a quick dip before lunch –

but I never was one

for losing

what I couldn’t afford

from the beginning

your richness made my heart

burn like a roman candle.


Now I don’t mind

your hand on my face like fire

like a slap

turned inside out

quick as a caress

but I’m warning you

this time

you will not slip away

under a covering cloud

of my tears.



.     .     .     .     .

Melvin Dixon as translator: a handful of “love letter” poems by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Melvin Dixon in 1988_photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library


Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906 – 2001)

What are you doing?”


“What are you doing? What are you thinking about? And of whom?”

This is your question and yours alone.


Nothing is more melodious than the one-hundred-metre runner

Whose arms and long legs are pistons of polished olive.


Nothing is more solid than the nude bust in the triangular

Harmony of Kaya-Magan flashing his thunderous charm.


If I swim like a dolphin in the South Wind,

If I walk in the sand like a dromedary, it is for you.


I am not the king of Ghana, or a hundred-metre runner.

Then will you still write to me, “What are you doing?”…


For I am not thinking – my eyes drink the blue rhythmically –

Except of you, like the wild black duck with the white belly.

.     .     .

Que fais tu?”


“Que fais tu? A quoi penses-tu? A qui?”

C’est ta question et ta question.

Rien n’est plus mélodieux que le coureur de cent mètres

Que les bras et les jambes longues, comme les pistons d’olive polis.


Rien n’est plus stable que le buste nu, triangle harmonie du Kaya-Magan

Et décochant le charme de sa foudre.


Si je nage comme le dauphin, debout le Vent du Sud

C’est pour toi si je marche dans le sable, comme le dromadaire.


Je ne suis pas roi du Ghana, ni coureur de cent mètres.

Or tu ne m’écriras plus “Que fais tu?”…


Car je ne pense pas, mes yeux boivent le bleu, rythmiques

Sinon à toi, comme le noir canard sauvage au ventre blanc.

.     .     .

Your letter on the bed”


Your letter on the bed and under the fragrant lamp,

Blue as the new shirt the young man smooths out as he hums,

Like the sky and sea, and my dream your letter.

And the sea has its salt, and air has milk, bread, rice,

I mean its salt. Life contains its sap and the earth

Its meaning. God’s meaning and movements.

Without your letter, life would not be life,

Your lips, my salt and sun, my fresh air and my snow.

.     .     .

Ta lettre sur le drap”


Ta lettre sur le drap, sous la lampe odorante

Bleue comme la chemise neuve que lisse le jeune homme

En chantonnant, comme le ciel et la mer et mon rêve

Ta letter. Et la mer a son sel, et l’air le lait le pain le riz,

Je dis son sel.

La vie contient sa sève, et la terre son sens

Le sens de Dieu et son mouvement.

Ta lettre sans quoi la vie ne serait pas vie

Tes lèvres mon sel mon soleil, mon air frais et ma neige.

.     .     .

My greeting”


My greeting is like a clear wing

To tell you this:

At the end of the first sleep, after reading your letter,

In the shadows and swamps, at the bottom of the poto-poto of anguish

And impasse, in the rolling stream of my dead dreams,

Like heads of children in the lost River,

I had only three choices: work, debauchery, or suicide.


I chose a fourth, to drink your eyes as I remember them

The golden sun on the white dew, my tender lawn.


Guess why I don’t know why.

.     .     .

Mon salut”


Mon salut comme une aile claire

Pour te dire ceci:

A la fin du premier sommeil, après ta lettre, dans la ténèbre et le poto-poto

Au fond des fondrières des angoisses des impasses, dans le courant roulant

Des rêves morts, comme des têtes d’enfants le Fleuve perdu

Je n’avais que trois choix: le travail la débauche ou le suicide.


J’ai choisi quatrième, de boire tes yeux souvenir

Soleil d’or sur la rosée blanche, mon gazon tendre.


Devine pourquoi je ne sais pourquoi.

.     .     .

The new sun greets me”


The new sun greets me on my bed,

The light of your letter and all the morning sounds,

The metallic cries of blackbirds, the gonolek bells,

Your smile on the lawn, on the splendid dew.


In the innocent light thousands of dragonflies

And crickets, like huge bees with golden-black wings

And like helicopters turning gracefully and calmly

On the limpid beach, the gold and black Tramiae basilares,

I say the dance of the princesses of Mali.


Here I am looking for you on the trail of tiger cats

Your scent always your scent, more exalting than the smell

Of lilies lifting from the bush humming with thorns.

Your fragrant neck guides me, your scent aroused by Africa

When my shepherd feet trample the wild mint.

At the end of the test and the season, at the bottom

Of the gulf, God! may I find again your voice

And your fragrance of vibrating light.

.     .     .

Le salut du jeune soleil”


Le salut du jeune soleil

Sur mon lit, la lumière de ta lettre

Tous les bruits que fusent du matin

Les cris métalliques des merles, les clochettes des gonoleks

Ton sourire sur le gazon, sur la rosée splendide.


Dans la lumière innocente, des milliers de libellules

Des frisselants, comme de grandes abeilles d’or ailes noires

Et comme des hélicoptères aux virages de grâce et de douceur

Sur la plage limpide, or et noir les Tramiae basilares

Je dis la danse des princesses du Mali.


Me voici à ta quête, sur le sentier des chats-tigres.

Ton parfum toujours ton parfum, de la brousse bourdonnant des buissons

Plus exaltant que l’odeur du lys dans sa surrection.

Me guide ta gorge odorante, ton parfum levé par l’Afrique

Quand sous mes pieds de berger, je foule les menthes sauvages.

Au bout de l’épreuve et de la saison, au fond du gouffre

Dieu! que je te retrouve, retrouve ta voix, ta fragrance de lumière vibrante.


Kaya-Magan – one of the emperor’s titles in an old dynasty of Mali

poto-poto – “mud”, in the Wolof language

gonolek – a bird common to Senegal

.     .     .     .     .

The above poems first appeared in Senghor’s Lettres d’Hivernage (Letters in the Season of Hivernage), published in 1972.  They were written during brief quiet moments alone by a busy middle-aged man who was the first President of the new Republic of Senegal (1960 to 1980) but who’d also been a poet in print since 1945 (Chants d’Ombre/Shadow Songs).  The poems are addressed to Senghor’s second wife, Colette Hubert;  the couple was often apart for weeks at a time.


Melvin Dixon (1950 to 1992) was an American novelist, poet, and Literature professor.  He translated from French into English the bulk of Senghor’s poetic oeuvre, including “lost” poems, and this work was published in 1991 as The Collected Poetry by Léopold Sédar Senghor.  Justin A. Joyce and Dwight A. McBride, editors of A Melvin Dixon Critical Reader (2006), have written of Dixon:  “Over the course of his brief career he became an important critical voice for African-American scholarship as well as a widely read chronicler of the African-American gay experience.”  They also noted Dixon’s ability to “synthesize criticism, activism, and art.”  His poetry collections included Change of Territory (1983) and Love’s Instruments (1995, posthumous) and his novels:  Trouble the Water (1989) and Vanishing Rooms (1990).

In his Introduction to his volume of Senghor’s Collected Poetry Dixon writes:  “Translating Senghor has provided an opportunity for me to bring together much of what I have learned over the years about francophone literature and how my own poetry has been inspired in part by the geography and history of Senegal.”

.     .     .     .     .

Melvin Dixon as poet: AIDS, Love, Community

ZP_Phill Wilson, now a Thriver_HIV positive for more than a generation_Activist and founder of The Black AIDS Institute

ZP_Phill Wilson, now a Thriver_HIV positive for more than a generation_Activist and founder of The Black AIDS Institute


Melvin Dixon (1950 – 1992)

One by One”

They won’t go when I go. (Stevie Wonder)

Live bravely in the hurt of light. (C.H.R.)


The children in the life:

Another telephone call. Another man gone.

How many pages are left in my diary?

Do I have enough pencils? Enough ink?

I count on my fingers and toes the past kisses,

the incubating years, the months ahead.


Thousands. Many thousands.

Many thousands gone.


I have no use for numbers beyond this one *,

one man, one face, one torso

curled into mine for the ease of sleep.

We love without mercy,

We live bravely in the light.


Thousands. Many thousands.


Chile, I knew he was funny, one of the children,

a member of the church, a friend of Dorothy’s.


He knew the Websters pretty well, too.

Girlfriend, he was real.

Remember we used to sit up in my house

pouring tea, dropping beads,

dishing this one and that one?


You got any T-cells left?

The singularity of death. The mourning thousands.

It begins with one and grows by one

and one and one and one

until there’s no one left to count.


* this one – Dixon’s lover, Richard Horovitz

.     .     .



Work out. Ten laps.

Chin ups. Look good.


Steam room. Dress warm.

Call home. Fresh air.


Eat right. Rest well.

Sweetheart. Safe sex.


Sore throat. Long flu.

Hard nodes. Beware.


Test blood. Count cells.

Reds thin. Whites low.


Dress warm. Eat well.

Short breath. Fatigue.


Night sweats. Dry cough.

Loose stools. Weight loss.


Get mad. Fight back.

Call home. Rest well.


Don’t cry. Take charge.

No sex. Eat right.


Call home. Talk slow.

Chin up. No air.


Arms wide. Nodes hard.

Cough dry. Hold on.


Mouth wide. Drink this.

Breathe in. Breathe out.


No air. Breathe in.

Breathe in. No air.


Black out. White rooms.

Head out. Feet cold.


No work. Eat right.

CAT scan. Chin up.


Breathe in. Breathe out.

No air. No air.


Thin blood. Sore lungs.

Mouth dry. Mind gone.


Six months? Three weeks?

Can’t eat. No air.


Today? Tonight?

It waits. For me.


Sweet heart. Don’t stop.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

.     .     .

Turning 40 in the ’90s”


April 1990


We promised to grow old together, our dream

since years ago when we began

to celebrate our common tenderness

and touch. So here we are:


Dry, ashy skin, falling hair, losing breath

at the top of the stairs, forgetting things.

Vials of Septra and AZT line the bedroom dresser

like a boy’s toy army poised for attack –

your red, my blue, and the casualties are real.


Now the dimming in your man’s eyes and mine.

Our bones ache as the muscles dissolve,

exposing the fragile gates of ribs, our last defense.

And we calculate pensions and premiums.

You are not yet forty-five, and I

not yet forty, but neither of us for long.


No senior discounts here, so we clip coupons

like squirrels in late November, foraging

each remaining month or week, day or hour.

We hold together against the throb and jab

of yet another bone from out of nowhere poking through.

You grip the walker and I hobble with a cane.

Two witnesses for our bent generation.

.     .     .

“Aunt Ida pieces a Quilt”


They brought me some of his clothes.  The hospital gown.

Those too-tight dungarees, his blue choir robe

with the gold sash.  How that boy could sing!

His favourite colour in a necktie.  A Sunday shirt.

What I’m gonna do with all this stuff?

I can remember Junie without this business.

My niece Francine say they quilting all over the country.

So many good boys like her boy, gone.

At my age I ain’t studying no needle and thread.

My eyes ain’t so good now and my fingers lock in a fist,

they so eaten up with arthritis.  This old back

don’t take kindly to bending over a frame no more.

Francine say ain’t I a mess carrying on like this.

I could make two quilts the time I spend running my mouth.

Just cut his name out the cloths, stitch something nice

about him.  Something to bring him back.  You can do it,

Francine say.  Best sewing our family ever had.

Quilting ain’t that easy, I say.  Never was easy.

Y’all got to help me remember him good.

Most of my quilts was made down South.  My Mama

and my Mama’s Mama taught me.  Popped me on the tail

if I missed a stitch or threw the pattern out of line.

I did “Bright Star” and “Lonesome Square” and “Rally Round,”

what many folks don’t bother with nowadays.  Then Elmo and me

married and came North where the cold in Connecticut

cuts you like a knife.  We was warm, though.

We had sackcloth and calico and cotton. 100% pure.

What they got now but polyester-rayon.  Factory made.

Let me tell you something.  In all my quilts there’s a secret

nobody knows.   Every last one of them got my name Ida

stitched on the backside in red thread.

That’s where Junie got his flair.   Don’t let anybody fool you.

When he got the Youth Choir standing up and singing

the whole church would rock.  He’d throw up his hands

from them wide blue sleeves and the church would hush

right down to the funeral parlour fans whisking the air.

He’d toss his head back and holler and we’d all cry Holy.

And never mind his too-tight dungarees.

I caught him switching down the street one Saturday night,

and I seen him more than once.   I said, Junie,

You ain’t got to let the whole world know your business.

Who cared where he went when he wanted to have fun?

He’d be singing his heart out come Sunday morning.

When Francine say she gonna hang this quilt in the church

I like to fall out.  A quilt ain’t no show piece,

it’s to keep you warm.  Francine say it can do both.

Now I ain’t so old fashioned I can’t change,

but I made Francine come over and bring her daughter

Belinda.  We cut and tacked his name, JUNIE.

Just plain and simple.   “JUNIE, our boy.”

Cut the J in blue, the U in gold.   N in dungarees

just as tight as you please.  The I from the hospital gown

and the white shirt he wore First Sunday.   Belinda

put the necktie E in the cross stitch I showed her.

Wouldn’t you know we got to talking about Junie.

We could smell him in the cloth.

Underarm.  Afro-Sheen pomade.  Gravy stains.

I forgot all about my arthritis.

When Francine left me to finish up, I swear

I heard Junie giggling right along with me

as I stitched Ida on the backside in red thread.

Francine say she gonna send this quilt to Washington

like folks doing from all across the country,

so many good people gone.  Babies, mothers, fathers,

and boys like our Junie.  Francine say

they gonna piece this quilt to another one,

another name and another patch

all in a larger quilt getting larger and larger.

Maybe we all like that, patches waiting to be pieced.

Well, I don’t know about Washington.

We need Junie here with us.  And Maxine,

she cousin May’s husband’s sister’s people,

she having a baby and here comes winter already.

The cold cutting like knives.  Now where did I put that needle?

.     .     .

The poems above are from Melvin Dixon’s posthumously-published poetry collection, Love’s Instruments (1995) © Faith Childs Literary Agency


When He calls me, I will answer…I’ll be somewhere, I’ll be somewhere…

I’ll be somewhere Listening for My Name.

These are words from a Gospel hymn that Melvin Dixon (see the ZP Senghor post immediately above this one for Dixon’s biographical details) quoted when he delivered a speech to The Third National Lesbian and Gay Writers Conference – “OutWrite 92” – in Boston, Massachusetts.  That was in 1992, and Dixon hadn’t long to live – AIDS would soon carry him off.  He urged those in attendance to “guard against the erasure of our experience and our lives.  As white gays become more and more prominent – and acceptable to mainstream society – they project a racially exclusive image of gay reality…(And) as white gays deny multiculturalism among gays, so too do black communities deny multisexualism among their members.  Against this double cremation, we must leave the legacy of our writing and our perspectives on gay and straight experiences.  Our voice is our weapon…We alone are responsible for the preservation and future of our literature.”

Dixon’s opening remarks are worth quoting at length;  they evoke the battle scars of that first brutal decade of AIDS and also demonstrate Dixon’s absolute integrity in acknowledging the interwoven-ness of sexuality and race.  Society’s attitude towards AIDS and HIV has evolved somewhat since 1992 but none of that progress came easily;  it was the result of courageous and dedicated activism.  (Note the un-reclaimed use of the word “nigger” (still, in fact, a lightning-rod word in 2013) and the complete absence of the word “queer” – a hateful slur that was still in popular use by ‘polite’ homophobes in place of the coarser “faggot”):

Melvin Dixon:

“As gay men and lesbians, we are the sexual niggers of our society. Some of you may have never before been treated like a second-class, disposable citizen. Some of you have felt a certain privilege and protection in being white, which is not to say that others are accustomed to or have accepted being racial niggers, and feel less alienated. Since I have never encountered a person of no colour, I assume that we are all persons of colour. Like fashion victims, though, we are led to believe that some colours have been so endowed with universality and desirability that the colour hardly seems to exist at all – except, of course, to those who are of a different colour and pushed outside the rainbow. My own fantasy is to be locked inside a Benetton ad.

No one dares call us sexual niggers, at least not to our faces. But the epithets can be devastating or entertaining: we are faggots and dykes, sissies and bulldaggers. We are funny, sensitive, Miss Thing, friends of Dorothy, or men with ‘a little sugar in the blood’, and we call ourselves what we will. As an anthropologist/linguist friend of mine calls me in one breath: “Miss Lady Sister Woman Honey Girl Child.” Within this environment of sexual and racial niggerdom, recovery isn’t easy. Sometimes it is like trying to fit a size-12 basketball player’s foot into one of Imelda Marcos’ pumps. The colour might be right, but the shoe still pinches. Or, for the more fashionable lesbians in the audience, lacing up those combat boots only to have extra eyelets staring you in the face – and you feel like Olive Oyl gone trucking after Minnie Mouse.

As for me, I’ve become an acronym queen: BGM ISO same or other. HIV plus or minus. CMV, PCP, MAI, AZT, ddl, ddC. Your prescription gets mine.

Remember those great nocturnal emissions of your adolescent years? They told us we were men, and the gooey stuff proved it. Now, in the 1990s, our nocturnal emissions are night sweats, inspiring fear, telling us we are mortal and sick, and that time is running out…I come to you bearing witness of a broken heart; I come to you bearing witness to a broken body – but a witness to an unbroken spirit. Perhaps it is only to you that such witness can be brought and its jagged edges softened a bit and made meaningful…We are facing the loss of our entire generation…(gay men lost to AIDS.) What kind of witness will You bear? What truth-telling are you brave enough to utter and endure the consequences of your unpopular message?”

ZP_Poster for the USA's National Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day_ February 2013

ZP_Poster for the USA’s National Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day_ February 2013

“Baby, I’m for real”: Black-American Gay poets from a generation ago

ZP_BlackAmericanGay couple_around 1980

.     .     .

“I dream of Black men loving and supporting other Black men, and relieving Black women from the role of primary nurturers in our community.  I dream, too, that as we receive more of what we want from each other that our special anger reserved for Black women will disappear.  For too long we expected from Black women that which we could only obtain from other men.  I dare myself to dream.”

Joseph Fairchild Beam (1954 – 1988) from Brother to Brother: Words from the Heart, a passionate 1984 essay directed at all – not just gay – Black men

.     .     .

Lamont B. Steptoe (born 1949)

Maybelle’s boy”


I get from other men

what my daddy never gave

He just left me a house

full of lonesome rooms

and slipped on in his grave.



when muscled arms enfold me

A peace descends from above

Someone is holdin’ Maybelle’s boy

and whisperin’ words of love.

.     .     .

Don Charles (born 1960)



When you looked and

saw my Brown skin

Didn’t it make you

feel comfortable?


Didn’t you remember that

old blanket

You used to wrap up in

when the nights got cold?


Didn’t you think about that

maplewood table

Where you used to sit and

write letters to your daddy?


Didn’t you almost taste that

sweet gingerbread

Your granny used to make?

(And you know it was good.)


When you looked and

saw my Brown eyes

Didn’t they look just like


.     .     .

Don Charles



You better quit coming around here like that

with no shirt on

and them gold chains on your neck


In them tight shorts

halfway pushed down the back

and your jockstrap showing


Ass jerking from side to side

and your legs all sweaty and shining


Trying to talk dirty

with that Kangol hat cocked to one side


Some dude’s gonna grab you

yank them shorts right down

throw you ‘cross the hood of his car

and ram his dick up your little ass so hard

it’ll make you walk more funny than you do.


Couldn’t nobody blame him neither

the way you walk around

acting like you want something



I may be the one who jams you –

You just better quit coming around here.

.     .     .

Don Charles

“If he hadn’t kissed me”


And the fool said to me

as he humped my behind:

“You ought to try

fucking a woman some time.”


“Gotta have you some pussy

to be a real man,”

he said while I jacked him off

on my divan.


I wanted to ask him

to see if he knew:

“Why would I mess with

a jackass like you,

if pussy was what

I wanted to do?”


And if he hadn’t kissed me,

I would have, too.

.     .     .

David Warren Frechette (died 1991)

Non, Je ne regrette rien”

(for Keith Barrow and Larry McKeithan)

I had big fun if I don’t get well no more.

(“Going Down Slow”, as sung by Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland)


Sister Chitlin’, Brother NeckBone and

Several of their oxymoron minions

Circle round my sick room,

Swathed in paper surgical gowns.


Brandishing crosses, clutching bibles,

(God, please don’t let them sing hymns!)

Pestering me to recant the

Wicked ways that brought me here.


“Renounce your sins and return to Jesus!”

Shouts one of the zealous flock.

“The truth is I never left Him,”

I reply with a fingersnap.

“Don’t you wish you’d chosen a normal lifestyle?”

“Sister, for me, I’m sure I did.”


Let the congregation work overtime

For my eleventh-hour conversion.

Their futile efforts fortify

My unrepentant resolve.


Though my body be racked by

Capricious pains and fevers,

I’m not even about to yield to

Fashionable gay Black temptation.


Mother Piaf’s second greatest hit title

Is taped to the inside of my brain

And silently repeated like a mantra:

“Non, je ne regrette rien.”


I don’t regret the hot Latino boxer

I made love to on Riverside Drive

Prior to a Washington march.

I don’t regret wild Jersey nights

Spent in the arms of conflicted satyrs;

I don’t regret late night and early a.m.

Encounters with world-class insatiables.


My only regrets are being ill,

Bed-ridden and having no boyfriend

To pray over me.

And that now I’ll never see Europe

Or my African homeland except

In photos in a book or magazine.


Engrave on my tombstone:

“Here sleeps a happy Black faggot

Who lived to love and died

With no guilt.”


No, I regret nothing

Of the gay life I’ve led and

There’s no way in Heaven or Hell

I’ll let anyone make me.

.     .     .

David Warren Frechette

“The Real Deal”


Don’t want death to catch me crying and acting like I been bad.

Don’t want no hypocrites around my bedside making me feel sad.

When my man comes my way with His golden book and silver scythe,

Then says, “Come along now, David…it’s the end of your life!”

I’ll answer Him,

“I’m a natural fighter, I ain’t gonna go easy,

Although my breath is short, and my stomach quite queasy.”

If I must leave this world hunched over, I got this reliance

That death will have to find me – arms folded in defiance.

.     .     .

ZP_Donald W. Woods photographed in 1987 by Robert GiardZP_Donald W. Woods photographed in 1987 by Robert Giard


Donald W. Woods (1958 – 1992)

What do I do about you?


holy ghost of my heart

grinding my memory

humping my need


throw your head like the dinka

shake your arms like the maasai

a french whore flirting

lickin lips at strangers


been waiting for your lightbulb

to glow for me



to exchange hard ass love

calloused affection


slapping high fives

capable and competent

listless and lonely


turn the blaze up slow

so I can breathe your

mourning breath

wet my pillow

part your eyelids


I’m a typewriter

randy and selfish and wise

a sonnet

a beat box


serve the next line

in your salty metaphors

and smoked salmon humour


wet me with

the next line


the resounding refrain

of grown men in love.

.     .     .

Cary Alan Johnson



I used your letter to roll a joint

and as your lies burned

I inhaled them;

they made me laugh.

.     .     .

Cary Alan Johnson



Last night

I fell silently into your

black sea.

Hair everywhere, in my

mouth, deep inside me,

deep, deeper

than we’d ever

gone before.

Did you know this

time would come?

.     .     .

Djola Bernard Branner

“Red Bandanas”

(as rapped to 101 beats per minute minus-one)


red bandanas

mean fuck me

when worn

in the right

hip pocket

in the right crowd


on castro

or christopher



but mine is worn

around the neck.


it means that

i am remembering


who wiped

the sweat from his

brow onto it

or used it to catch

the contents of

a cough

or laundered it /

and wore it

around his neck.


red bandanas

mean fuck me

when worn

in the right

hip pocket

in the right crowd


on castro

or christopher



but mine is worn

around the neck.


it means that

i am remembering


who placed it

in the palm of

my hand /

and dried

the tears she

cried in it

’cause her

father died

with nothing

but his /


red bandanas

mean fuck me

when worn

in the right

hip pocket

in the right crowd


on castro

or christopher



but mine is worn

around the neck.

.     .     .

Steve Langley

“Tell Mama”


When I was 10 years old, I asked

my mama while she was making potato salad:

“Mama, what’s a homosexual?” She said:

“It’s a man who likes men.”

“What’s a lesbian?”

“It’s a woman who likes women.”

“What makes them like that?”

“I don’t know, son. Nobody knows.

It’s a freak of nature.”


When I was 14, I heard

her say to my stepfather:

“We can’t go nowhere

without you winkin’ and blinkin’

and makin’ advances at other men.

I see you.

I’ll never trust you as long as you got

a hole in your ass.”


When I was 17, I sat

with my mother on our front porch

as she shriveled from cancer.

We watched the stars, felt the breeze,

Tonight I would tell her,

tell her that I was like the men

she told me about,

that I was like my stepfather…

Ants gathered the words at my feet.

I felt them rise through my toes, my ankles,

and my legs. They were creeping through me,

at my waist, in my stomach, my chest.

My throat got thick, my tongue heavy.

I needed to tell her what she already knew.

I began,

But I couldn’t…..

.     .     .

Steve Langley



Build a wall

I’ll find a way to get over

Deal me a bad hand

Watch me change my luck

Turn up the heat

And I’ll make it colder

Do what you want

I’m never giving up.

.     .     .

Steve Langley



I see stains

on your sheets

and tell myself

it’s chicken grease.

.     .     .

Steve Langley



Say yes to love

Say no to sex

Say you, say me

Oh say can you see

We are afraid of each other

Say sister, say brother

Are you still messin’ ’round

Do you have a steady lover

Are you waitin’ for the cure

Are you sure

Are you savin’ yourself

Are you lovin’ yourself

Have you come yet

Are your dreams wet

Is your sex safe

Is it already too late?

ZP_Safe sex poster from 1985 produced by the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership ForumZP_Safe sex poster from 1985 produced by the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum


Steve Langley



i’m chocolate candy

a handful of cookies

the goodies you’re forbidden

to eat

i’m a piece of cake

a slice of pie

an ice-cream bar

that chills your teeth

think of me

as your favourite treat

a pan of popcorn kernels

waitin’ for the heat.

.     .     .

The poems we’ve gathered here were mostly originally published in chapbooks and literary journals between the years 1988 and 1992.  Then, along with short-stories, essays and interviews, some of them were anthologized in Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men (1991), edited by Essex Hemphill, conceived by Joseph Fairchild Beam, with the project being managed by Joseph’s mother, Dorothy Beam.  Others appeared in editor Assotto Saint’s Here to Dare: 10 Gay Black Poets (1992).

.     .     .     .     .

“Xigubo”(1964): seleção de poemas do poeta moçambicano José Craveirinha (1922 – 2003)

Illustrações de José Craveirinha Junior., da segunda edição de “Xigubo”(1980, Edições 70)


(para Claude Coufon)
Minha mãe África
meu irmão Zambeze
Culucumba! Culucumba!
Xigubo estremece terra do mato
e negros fundem-se ao sopro da xipalapala
e negrinhos de peitos nus na sua cadência
levantam os braços para o lume da irmã lua
e dançam as danças do tempo da guerra
das velhas tribos da margem do rio.
Ao tantã do tambor
o leopardo traiçoeiro fugiu.
E na noite de assombrações
brilham alucinados de vermelho
os olhos dos homens e brilha ainda
mais o fio azul do aço das catanas.
E negro Maiela
músculos tensos na azagaia rubra
salta o fogo da fogueira amarela
e dança as danças do tempo da guerra
das velhas tribos da margem do rio.
E a noite desflorada
abre o sexo ao orgasmo do tambor
e a planície arde todas as luas cheias
no feitiço viril da insuperstição das catanas.
E os negros dançam ao ritmo da Lua Nova
rangem os dentes na volúpia do xigubo
e provam o aço ardente das catanas ferozes
na carne sangrenta da micaia grande.
E as vozes rasgam o silêncio da terra
enquanto os pés batem
enquanto os tambores batem
e enquanto a planície vibra os ecos milenários
aqui outra vez os homens desta terra
dançam as danças do tempo da guerra
das velhas tribos juntas na margem do rio.



.     .     .

Grito Negro”
Eu sou carvão!
E tu arrancas-me brutalmente do chão
E fazes-me tua mina
Eu sou carvão!
E tu acendes-me, patrão
Para te servir eternamente como força motriz
mas eternamente não
Eu sou carvão!
E tenho que arder, sim
E queimar tudo com a força da minha combustão.
Eu sou carvão!
Tenho que arder na exploração
Arder até às cinzas da maldição
Arder vivo como alcatrão, meu Irmão
Até não ser mais tua mina
Eu sou carvão!
Tenho que arder
E queimar tudo com o fogo da minha combustão.
Eu serei o teu carvão

.     .     .


Em meus lábios grossos fermenta
a farinha do sarcasmo que coloniza minha Mãe África
e meus ouvidos não levam ao coração seco
misturada com o sal dos pensamentos
a sintaxe anglo-latina de novas palavras.

Amam-me com a única verdade dos seus evangelhos
a mística das suas missangas e da sua pólvora
a lógica das suas rajadas de metralhadora
e enchem-me de sons que não sinto
das canções das suas terras
que não conheço.
E dão-me
a única permitida grandeza dos seus heróis
a glória dos seus monumentos de pedra
a sedução dos seus pornográficos Rolls-Royce
e a dádiva quotidiana das suas casas de passe.
Ajoelham-me aos pés dos seus deuses de cabelos lisos
e na minha boca diluem o abstracto
sabor da carne de hóstias em milionésimas
circunferências hipóteses católicas de pão.
E em vez dos meus amuletos de garras de leopardo
vendem-me a sua desinfectante benção
a vergonha de uma certidão de filho de pai incógnito
uma educativa sessão de ‘strip-tease’ e meio litro
de vinho tinto com graduação de álcool de branco
exacta só para negro
um gramofone de magaíza
um filme de heróis de carabina a vencer traiçoeiros
selvagens armados de penas e flechas
e o ósculo das suas balas e dos seus gases lacrimogéneos
civiliza o meu casto impudor africano.
Efígies de Cristo suspendem ao meu pescoço
em rodelas de latão em vez dos meus autênticos
mutovanas de chuva e da fecundidade das virgens
do ciúme e da colheita de amendoim novo.
E aprendo que os homens inventaram
a confortável cadeira eléctrica
a técnica de Buchenwald e as bombas V2
acenderam fogos de artifício nas pupilas
de ex-meninos vivos de Varsóvia
criaram Al Capone, Hollywood, Harlem
a seita Ku-Klux-Klan, Cato Manor e Sharpeville*
e emprenharam o pássaro que fez o choco
sobre os ninhos mornos de Hiroshima e Nagasaki
conheciam o segredo das parábolas de Charlie Chaplin
lêem Platão, Marx, Gandhi, Einstein e Jean-Paul Sartre
e sabem que Garcia Lorca não morreu mas foi assassinado
são os filhos dos santos que descobriram a Inquisição
perverteram de labaredas a crucificada nudez
da sua Joana D’Arc e agora vêm
arar os meus campos com charruas ‘Made in Germany’
mas já não ouvem a subtil voz das árvores
nos ouvidos surdos do espasmo das turbinas
não lêem nos meus livros de nuvens
o sinal das cheias e das secas
e nos seus olhos ofuscados pelos clarões metalúrgicos
extinguiu-se a eloquente epidérmica beleza de todas
as cores das flores do universo
e já não entendem o gorjeio romântico das aves de casta
instintos de asas em bando nas pistas do éter
infalíveis e simultâneos bicos trespassando sôfregos
a infinita côdea impalpável de um céu que não existe.
E no colo macio das ondas não adivinham os vermelhos
sulcos das quilhas negreiras e não sentem
como eu sinto o prenúncio mágico sob os transatlânticos
da cólera das catanas de ossos nos batuques do mar.
E no coração deles a grandeza do sentimento
é do tamanho ‘cowboy’ do nimbo dos átomos
desfolhados no duplo rodeo aéreo no Japão.
Mas nos verdes caminhos oníricos do nosso desespero
perdoo-lhes a sua bela civilização à custa do sangue
ouro, marfim, améns
e bíceps do meus povo.
E ao som másculo dos tantãs tribais o Eros
do meu grito fecunda o húmus dos navios negreiros…
E ergo no equinócio da minha Terra
o moçambicano rubi do nosso mais belo canto xi-ronga
e na insólita brancura dos rins da plena Madrugada
a necessária carícia dos meus dedos selvagens
é a tácita harmonia de azagaias no cio das raças
belas como altivos falos de ouro
erectos no ventre nervoso da noite africana.


*Cato Manor e Sharpeville – nomes de lugares onde ocorreram repressões policiais sangrentas na África do Sul contra trabalhadores africanos

.     .     .

Illustrações de José Craveirinha Junior., da segunda edição de “Xigubo”(1980, Edições 70)




Meus belos e curtos cabelos crespos
e meus olhos negros como insurrectas
grandes luas de pasmo na noite mais bela
das mais belas noites inesquecíveis das terras do Zambeze.


Como pássaros desconfiados
incorruptos voando com estrelas nas asas meus olhos
enormes de pesadelos e fantasmas estranhos motorizados
e minhas maravilhosas mãos escuras raízes do cosmos
nostálgicas de novos ritos de iniciação
dura da velha rota das canoas das tribos
e belas como carvões de micaias
na noite das quizumbas.
E a minha boca de lábios túmidos
cheios da bela virilidade ímpia de negro
mordendo a nudez lúbrica de um pão
ao som da orgia dos insectos urbanos
apodrecendo na manhã nova
cantando a cega-rega inútil das cigarras obesas.


Oh! E meus belos dentes brancos de marfim espoliado
puros brilhando na minha negra reencarnada face altiva
e no ventre maternal dos campos da nossa indisfrutada colheita de milho
o cálido encantamento selvagem da minha pele tropical.


Ah! E meu
corpo flexível como o relâmpago fatal da flecha de caça
e meus ombros lisos de negro da Guiné
e meus músculos tensos e brunidos ao sol das colheitas e da carga
e na capulana austral de um céu intangível
os búzios de gente soprando os velhos sons cabalísticos de África.


o fogo
a lua
o suor amadurecendo os milhos
a grande irmã água dos nossos rios moçambicanos
e a púrpura do nascente no gume azul dos seios das montanhas.


Ah! Mãe África no meu rosto escuro de diamante
de belas e largas narinas másculas
frementes haurindo o odor florestal
e as tatuadas bailarinas macondes
na bárbara maravilha eurítmica
das sensuais ancas puras

e no bater uníssono dos mil pés descalços.


Oh! E meu peito da tonalidade mais bela do bréu
e no embondeiro da nossa inaudita esperança gravado
o tótem mais invencível tótem do Mundo
e minha voz estentórea de homem do Tanganhica,
do Congo, Angola, Moçambique e Senegal.


Ah! Outra vez eu chefe zulo
eu azagaia banto
eu lançador de malefícios contra as insaciáveis
pragas de gafanhotos invasores.
Eu tambor
Eu suruma
Eu negro suaíli
Eu Tchaca
Eu Mahazul e Dingana
Eu Zichacha na confidência dos ossinhos mágicos do tintlholo
Eu insubordinada árvore de Munhuana
Eu tocador de presságios nas teclas das timbilas chopes
Eu caçador de leopardos traiçoeiros
E xiguilo no batuque.
E nas fronteiras de água do Rovuma ao Incomáti
Eu-cidadão dos espíritos das luas
carregadas de anátemas de Moçambique.

.     .     .

Illustrações de José Craveirinha Junior, da segunda edição de “Xigubo”(1980, Edições 70)

.     .     .     .     .

O Festival Internacional do Tambor Muhtadi: “Quero ser tambor” / “I want to be a drum”

ZP_Muhtadi Festival in Toronto_June 9th 2013_AA performer deeply involved in the energy of The Drum_Muhtadi International Drumming Festival in Toronto_June 9th 2013_photograph by Elisabeth Springate


José Craveirinha

(1922–2003, Maputo, Moçambique)

Quero ser tambor”


Tambor está velho de gritar
Oh velho Deus dos homens
deixa-me ser tambor
corpo e alma só tambor
só tambor gritando na noite quente dos trópicos.


Nem flor nascida no mato do desespero
Nem rio correndo para o mar do desespero
Nem zagaia temperada no lume vivo do desespero
Nem mesmo poesia forjada na dor rubra do desespero.


Nem nada!


Só tambor velho de gritar na lua cheia da minha terra
Só tambor de pele curtida ao sol da minha terra
Só tambor cavado nos troncos duros da minha terra.




Só tambor rebentando o silêncio amargo da Mafalala
Só tambor velho de sentar no batuque da minha terra
Só tambor perdido na escuridão da noite perdida.


Ó velho Deus dos homens
eu quero ser tambor
e nem rio
e nem flor
e nem zagaia por enquanto
e nem mesmo poesia.


Só tambor ecoando como a canção da força e da vida
Só tambor noite e dia
dia e noite só tambor
até à consumação da grande festa do batuque!


Oh velho Deus dos homens
deixa-me ser tambor
só tambor!


ZP_Muhtadi Festival in Toronto_June 9th 2013_CIsshin Daiko (“One Heart” Japanese-traditional drummers)_Muhtadi International Drumming Festival in Toronto_June 9th 2013_photograph by Elisabeth Springate


José Craveirinha

I want to be a drum”


The drum is all weary from screaming

Oh ancient God of mankind
let me be a drum because I want to be a drum
body and soul – just a drum
just a drum playing in the hot tropical night.

I don’t want to be a flower born in the forest of despair
I don’t want to be a river flowing toward the sea of despair
I don’t want to be an assegai spear tempered in the hot flame of despair
Not even a poem forged in the searing pain of despair.


Nothing like that – I want to be a drum!


Just a drum worn from wailing in the full moon of my land
Just a drumskin cured in the sun of my land
Just a drum carved from the solid tree trunks of my land.


Just a drum splitting the bitter silence of Mafalala village
Just a drum worn from sitting in on the batuque jam-sessions of my land
Just a drum lost in the darkness of the lost night.


Oh ancient God of mankind
I want to be a drum – just a drum
not a river
not a flower
not an assegai spear just for now
and not even a poem – I don’t want to be a poem.
Only a drum echoing like the song of strength and life
Only a drum night and day,
day and night, only a drum
until the final great batuque jam session!
Oh ancient God of mankind
let me be a drum
just a drum!

.     .     .

Mafalala – a neighbourhood or bairro in the city of Maputo, Mozambique

batuque – festival of drumming

assegai – an African hardwood, used to make the iron-tipped “zagaia” spear


ZP_Muhtadi Festival in Toronto_June 9th 2013_BDhol Circle_Muhtadi International Drumming Festival in Toronto_June 9th 2013_photograph by Elisabeth Springate


José Craveirinha  é considerado o poeta maior de Moçambique. Em 1991, tornou-se o primeiro autor africano galardoado com o Prémio Camões, o mais importante prémio literário da língua portuguesa.

José Craveirinha (1922 – 2003) was a Mozambican journalist, short-story writer, and poet.  He was the child of a Portuguese father and a black (Ronga) Mozambican mother.  An impassioned supporter of the anti-Colonial group Frelimo during the Portuguese Colonial War/War of Liberation, he was imprisoned from 1966 to 1974.  Craveirinha was one of the pioneers of Poesia Moçambicana da Negritude, a literary movement that highlighted African traditions and the reaffirmation of African values.


Master drummer Muhtadi Thomas came to Canada in 1974 from Trinidad and Tobago.  He settled in Toronto where he has established himself as the premier percussion-instrument mentor among students in the city’s school and community programmes.  He plays djembe, bongos, congas, timbales, plus T&T’s steel pan – among other world drums.   June 8th and 9th, 2013, marked the 14th year of the Muhtadi International Drumming Festival.


Our thanks to Professor Kwachirere of the University of Zimbabwe for his Portuguese-into-English poem translation

.     .     .     .     .

Rita Letendre: “La lumière, depuis le premier choc à la naissance, jusqu’au dernier souffle – la lumière est la vie. En tout cas, ç’a été ma vie!” / “Light, from the first shock at birth up to the last breath, is life. Anyway, that’s been my life!”

Rita Letendre in Montréal during the early 1970s

Rita Letendre_Le cri_oil on canvas_1962

Rita Letendre_Incandescense_oil on canvas_1968

Rita Letendre_Sunrise_a mural on the side of Neill Wycik Residence, Gerrard Street East in Toronto_1971

Rita Letendre_Blues_acrylic on canvas_1972

Rita Letendre_Malapeque II_1973

Rita Letendre_Romir_serigraph on paper_1979

Rita Letendre_Always, is it?_oil on canvas_2011

ZP_Rita Letendre receiving The Governor Generals Award in Visual and Media Arts from Governor General Michaelle Jean in 2010Rita Letendre receiving The Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts from Governor-General Michaëlle Jean in 2010

.     .     .     .     .

Rita Letendre, born in Drummondville, Québec, in 1928, is an internationally-acclaimed painter.  She is one of the great stars of Canadian art, emerging with a breath-taking Modernist boldness during the 1970s.  Her father was Québécois and her mother Abenaki (an Algonquian people).   In her twenties she associated with Paul-Émile Borduas’ automatistes and her first solo show took place at the Montreal gallery L’Échourie in 1955.  Her “classic” paintings in hard-edged, geometric abstraction – with their strong arrow motif – are instantly recognizable.  The artist, a force even in her 80s, says:  “La lumière, depuis le premier choc à la naissance, jusqu’au dernier souffle – la lumière est la vie.  En tout cas, ç’a été ma vie!” / “Light, from the first shock at birth up to the last breath, is life.  Anyway, that’s been my life!”

.     .     .     .     .

Rita Bouvier: Nakamowin’sa kahkiyaw ay’sînôwak kici / Wordsongs for all human beings

Gabriel Dumont, Métis Leader, photographed by Orlando Scott Goff, around 1886-1888


Rita Bouvier ( Île-à-la-Crosse (Sakittawak), Saskatchewan )

that was a long time ago, and here we are today


that was a long time ago

and here we are today


listen, listen

the heart of the land beats


our children curious

as all children are

will ask the right questions


why does a nation take up arms

in a battle knowing it will lose?

knowing it will lose


listen, listen

the heart of the land beats


when the long night turns to day

remember, hope is the morning

a songbird’s prayer

.     .     .

I am created

(for my father, Emile)


I am created by a natural bond

between a man and a woman,

but this one, is forever two.

one is white, the Other, red.

a polarity of being, absorbed

as one.  I am nature with clarity.


against my body, white rejects red

and red rejects white.  instinctively,

I have learned to love – I have learned to live

though the politics of polarity

is never far away.  still, I am

waiting, waiting.

.     .     .

a spider tale


behind the shed

in the tall yellow grass

a cardboard box

is my make-believe home

no one can see me

but I can see


their comings

and goings

my auntie Albertine

is washing clothes today

and needs the power

of my long arms

and lanky legs

to haul pails and pails

of water from the lake


I watch

as she searches for me

mumbles something about

kihtimigan – that lazy one

walks back inside the house

and out again

calling my name


when I appear

out of nowhere

she looks relieved to see me

nitânis, tânitê oma î kîtotîyin?”

my daughter, where in the world have you been?”

I tell her –

I was here all along


what I don’t tell her is

that I have been spinning tales

trying to understand

the possibility of…

myself as a spider

all legs

travelling here and there

with disturbing speed

my preoccupation with food

my home a web

so intricate and fragile

yet strong as sinew


today I remembered

not as sure footed

as I would like to be

someone calling my name

I lost my footing

falling, falling

.     .     .

we say we want it all


we fight amongst ourselves

jealous, one of us is standing.


there are no celebrations

for brave deeds among the chaos, instead


we joing the banner call for rights

forgetting an idea from the past –


responsibility.  we join the march

for freedom, forgetting an idea


from the past – peace keeping.

we say we want, want it all


a piece of the action we know destroys

our home – our relations with each other


we are mired so deep, drowning

in our own thinking, thinking


we too could have it all, if only…

if only we could see ourselves

Louis Riel's two children, Jean-Louis and Angelique, age 6 and 5_photographed at Steele and Wings studio in Winnipeg_around 1888Louis Riel’s two children, Jean-Louis and Angélique, ages 6 and 5, photographed at Steele and Wings studio in Winnipeg, 1888


Riel is dead, and I am alive


I listen passively while strangers

claim monopoly of the truth.

one claims Riel is hero

while the other insists Riel was mad.


I can feel a tension rising, a sterile talk

presenting the life of a living people,

sometime in eighteen eighty five.

now, some time in nineteen ninety five


a celebration of some odd sort.

I want to scream.  listen you idiots,

Riel is dead! and I am alive!

instead, I sit there mute and voiceless.


the truth unravelling, as academics

parade their lines, and cultural imperialists

wave their flags.  this time the gatling gun

is academic discourse, followed


by a weak response of political rhetoric.

all mumbo-jumbo for a past that is

irreconcilable.  this much I know

when I remember – I remember


my mother – her hands tender, to touch

my grandmother – her eyes, blue, the sky

my great grandmother – a story, a star gazer

who could read plants, animals and the sky.

.     .     .

that’s three for you


a young man came to me one day wanting

to understand me – the distance between

separate worlds, his and mine, his and mine.

surely, he begged, we could forsake the past

for the future, yours and mine, yours and mine.


I listened intently trying to find

the right words to say, to reassure him

my intentions, telling my story – the same.

I told him perhaps the past remembered

holds our future, yours and mine, yours and mine.


I wish it was easy to forget

as it is writing this poem for you.

I wish I could believe, I wish we could

break this damn cycle of separate worlds.

I wish I wish I wish.  that’s three for you.

.     .     .

last night at Lydia’s


Celtic toe-tapping fiddle

Red River jigging rhythm

runs in my veins

a surge like lightning


that testosterone

in the mix tonight.

ohhhh, it feels good

to be alive


plaid shirted, tight blue jeans

good-looking, knows it kind-a-man

you hurt my eyes


pony-tailed, dark skinned

women in arm kind-a-man

your hurt my eyes


rugged, canoe-paddling

handsome kind-a-man

you hurt my eyes


muscle busting, v-necked

silver buckled kind-a-man

you hurt my eyes


cool leathered, scotch-sipping

drinking kind-a-man

you hurt my eyes


quiet wire-rimmed

spectacled kind-a-man

you hurt my eyes


you – you – you –

holding my hand kind-a-man

ohhhh, you hurt my eyes

Shane Yellowbird_Cree country-music singer from Alberta


hand on hand


we made a pact but you were only three.

I was so much older I should have known

better.  I promised then to take care of you

as long as my hands were bigger than yours.


in return, you promised to take care of

me, when your hands would grow bigger than mine.

today, you came to me wanting to measure

your hand against mine;  I said, go away


your hands growing way, way too fast for me.

just then, a thick fog descended across

the street.  you ran into it curious

unafraid, unaware you were disappearing


with every step you took.  I ran after you

trying as best as I could to hold on

with you in sight, letting go at each step.

hand on hand we made a pact, you were three.

.     .     .

wordsongs of a warrior


what is poetry?  how do I explain

this affliction to my mother

in the language she understands,

words strung together, woven

pieces of memory, naming

and telling the truth in a way

that dances, swings and sways


why the subject of my poetry

is sometimes difficult to deliver

why my subjects are terrorized

even controversial, why

the subjects are the essence

of my own being – close to the bone.


nakamowin’sa   wordsongs

kahkiyaw ay’sînôwak kici   for all human beings

ta sohkihtama  kipimâsonaw   to give strength on this journey

kitahtawî ayis êkwa   one of these days, for sure now

kam’skâtonanaw   we will find each other

.     .     .

when the silence breaks


I am a reluctant speaker

violence not just a physical thing.


words are one thing

I can hold them in my hand

later embroider them

like you do fine silk

on white deer hide

if I want.

but dead silence

that’s another matter

there is nothing to hold on to

like the falling

before you awaken.


I imagine it this way, simply

kitahtawî êkwa

one of these days now

when the silence breaks

the deer will stop in their tracks

pausing eyes wide

the wolverine will roll over and over

on the hillside, and

you will hear my voice

as if for the first time

distant and then melodic

and you will recognize it

as your very own.

kitahtawî êkwa

.     .     .

a ritual for goodbye

(in memory of Albertine)


walking the shoreline

this crisp spring morning

in our matching

red-line rubber boots

my cousin and I

are reminiscing

the days gone by


I remember first

one early spring

the water so low

we could get

from one island

to the next

our clothes piled high

over our heads


she remembers then

no human debris

like there is now

just the odd

piece of driftwood

she reminded me

we wondered then

where it came from

a guessing game


walking the shoreline

this crisp spring morning

our walk is certain

clinging close

to what we know best

this shoreline, this bond,

we don’t speak of the fact

that our aunt is dying

.     .     .

earthly matters


when I came to your grave site

late last fall, a chill in the air,

I was feeling sorry for myself.

I came looking for a sign

one might say it was –

guidance on earthly matters.


lifting my face skyward

I found nothing but blue sky.

I searched the horizon,

it was then I discovered

a la Bouleau in the distance.

I smiled, recalling

that walk we took

through the new cemetery

on a break from city life.

you didn’t want to be buried

near the saints anyway,

roped in, in a chain-link fence.

you were pointing out,

as if it were a daily business

family plots here and there.

best of all, you claimed

you had selected the ideal plot

for yourself and your family,

a la Bouleau in the distance.

.     .     .

All poems © Rita Bouvier – from her Thistledown Press collection entitled Papîyâhtak.   In the Cree language Papîyâhtak means:  to act in a thoughtful way,  a respectful way,  a joyful way,  a balanced way.


Rita Bouvier is a journeyer who searches along the way.  Her poems are unafraid to take chances;  they are complex in emotion, unsparing in intellect.  Papîyâhtak includes a number of poems written for actors in The Batoche Musical which was conceived and developed by a theatre and writers’ collective and performed at Back to Batoche Days in Batoche, Saskatchewan.  The poem That was a long time ago, and we are here today was inspired by an essay written by South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.

.     .     .

Gabriel Dumont (1837 – 1906) was a leader of the Métis people in what is now the province of Saskatchewan.  It was Dumont who brought the exiled Louis Riel (1844 – 1885) back to Canada to pressure Canadian authorities to recognize the Métis as a Nation.  Sharpshooter with a rifle, Dumont was Riel’s chief right-hand man and he led the Métis forces in the North-West Resistance (or Rebellion – as Ottawa-centric history books described it) of 1885.

Louis Riel was one of the towering Hero figures of Canadian history.  For more on Riel – and a letter/poem he wrote to Sir John A. Macdonald, his ideological opposite – (along with a letter/poem addressed to Macdonald by contemporary Métis poet Marilyn Dumont) – click the following ZP link for January 11th, 2012:


.     .     .     .     .