Jackie Robinson: “El Primero”

Jackie Robinson durante el entrenamiento-primavera de marzo 1948_Ciudad Trujillo, La República Dominicana_Jackie Robinson, first baseman of the Brooklyn Dodgers, returns an autograph book to a fan during the Dodgers' spring training in Ciudad Trujillo, now Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic on March 6th, 1948

Jackie Robinson durante el entrenamiento-primavera de marzo 1948_Ciudad Trujillo, La República Dominicana_Jackie Robinson, first baseman of the Brooklyn Dodgers, returns an autograph book to a fan during the Dodgers’ spring training in Ciudad Trujillo, now Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic on March 6th, 1948

Un poema para Jackie Robinson (31 de enero, 1919 – 24 de octubre, 1972): beisbolista que fue el primer jugador afroamericano en las Ligas Mayores del siglo XX (15 de abril, 1947, con los Brooklyn Dodgers):

J. Patrick Lewis (nacido 1942)

El Primero”

.

Corro por la línea,

ocho pies, nueve…

y amago sentir la ráfaga de aire entre

el rozamiento del hombre tercera-base y el pentágono.

Whitey Ford mira por mí

un ratero jugueteando con su incredulidad –

mirlo fantasmal saltando el desafío

estremeciéndome y avanzado palmo a palmo por el borde

hacia Leyenda.

Calculo el final,

mis pistones listos,

deslizándome abajo del guante de Yogi.

¡Está dejado atónito Todo en el Estadio Yankee!

Pero se puede oír la ovación desde la distancia de Harlem.

.

Versión de Alexander Best

.     .     .

A poem about Jackie Robinson (January 31st, 1919 – October 24th, 1972), the first African-American major-league baseball player in the twentieth century (April 15th, 1947, with the Brooklyn Dodgers):

J. Patrick Lewis (born 1942)

The First”

.

I run down 

the line, eight feet, 

nine. . .and feint to feel 

the rush between the third 

baseman’s brush back and home.

Whitey Ford stares through me, a sneak thief 

playing on his disbelief, a phantom blackbird hopping 

on and off 

the dare, flinching,

inching along the ledge

to legend. I time the windup, 

my pistons primed to shovel under

Yogi’s glove. Yankee Stadium is stunned!

But you can hear the cheering all the way from Harlem. 

.     .     .

© J. Patrick Lewis, from his 2012 collection When Thunder Comes: 

Poems for Civil Rights Leaders, published by Chronicle Books

.     .     .     .     .


Gwendolyn Brooks: “Mis sueños, mis trabajos, tendrán que esperar hasta mi vuelta del infierno”

Gwendolyn Brooks_1917 to 2000Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)

La balada-soneto”

.

Oh madre, madre, ¿dónde está la felicidad?

Se llevaron a mi alto amante a la guerra.

Me dejaron lamentándome. No puedo saber

de qué me sirve la taza vacía del corazón.

Él no va a volver nunca más. Algún día

la guerra va a terminar pero, oh, yo supe

cuando salió, grandioso, por esa puerta,

que mi dulce amor tendría que serme infiel.

Que tendría que serme infiel. Tendría que cortejar

a la coqueta Muerte, cuyos imprudentes, extraños

y posesivos brazos y belleza (de cierta clase)

pueden hacer que un hombre duro dude –

y cambie. Y que sea el que tartamudee: Sí.

Oh madre, madre, ¿dónde está la felicidad?

.

(1949)

.

Versión de Tom Maver

. . .

“Mis sueños, mis trabajos,
tendrán que esperar hasta
mi vuelta del infierno

.
Almaceno mi miel y mi pan tierno
en jarras y cajones protegidos
recomiendo a las tapas y pestillos
resistir hasta mi vuelta del infierno.
Hambrienta, me siento como incompleta
no se si una cena volveré a probar
todos me dicen que debo aguardar
la débil luz. Con mi mirada atenta
espero que al acabar los duros días
al salir a rastras de mi tortura
mi corazón recordará sin duda
cómo llegar hasta la casa mía.
Y mi gusto no será indiferente
a la pureza del pan y de la miel.

.

(1963)
. . .

“El funeral de la prima Vit

.

Sin protestar es llevada afuera.
Golpea el ataúd que no la aguanta
ni satín ni cerrojos la contentan
ni los párpados contritos que tuviera.
Oh, mucho, es mucho, ahora sabe
ella se levanta al sol, va, camina
regresa a sus lugares y se inclina
en camas y cosas que la gente ve.
Vital y rechinante se endereza
y hasta mueve sus caderas y sisea
derrama mal vino en su chal de seda
habla de embarazos, dice agudezas
feliz, recorre senderos y parques
histérica, loca feliz. Feliz es.

.

(1994)

.

Versiones de Óscar Godoy Barbosa

Gwendolyn Brooks as a teenager
ZP_Poetry Magazine_March 1949 issue
Poet Gwendolyn Brooks in the mid1960s_photo by Art Shay

Gwendolyn Brooks woodcut from 2001 by Dirk Hagner

Gwendolyn Brooks

The Sonnet-Ballad”

.

Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?

They took my lover’s tallness off to war,

Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess

What I can use an empty heart-cup for.

He won’t be coming back here any more.

Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew

When he went walking grandly out that door

That my sweet love would have to be untrue.

Would have to be untrue. Would have to court

Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange

Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)

Can make a hard man hesitate–and change.

And he will be the one to stammer, “Yes.”

Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?

. . .

My dreams, my works, must wait till after Hell”

.

I hold my honey and I store my bread   

In little jars and cabinets of my will.   

I label clearly, and each latch and lid   

I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.   

I am very hungry. I am incomplete.

And none can tell when I may dine again.   

No man can give me any word but Wait,   

The puny light. I keep eyes pointed in;   

Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt   

Drag out to their last dregs and I resume   

On such legs as are left me, in such heart   

As I can manage, remember to go home,

My taste will not have turned insensitive   

To honey and bread old purity could love.

. . .

The rites for cousin Vit”

.

Carried her unprotesting out the door.

Kicked back the casket-stand. But it can’t hold her,

That stuff and satin aiming to enfold her,

The lid’s contrition nor the bolts before.

Oh oh. Too much. Too much. Even now, surmise,

She rises in the sunshine. There she goes,

Back to the bars she knew and the repose

In love-rooms and the things in people’s eyes.

Too vital and too squeaking. Must emerge.

Even now she does the snake-hips with a hiss,

Slops the bad wine across her shantung, talks

Of pregnancy, guitars and bridgework, walks

In parks or alleys, comes haply on the verge

Of happiness, haply hysterics. Is.

. . .

Gwendolyn Brooks (Topeka, Kansas, EE.UU.) 1917 – 2000

Primera autora negra ganadora del Premio Pulitzer de poesía (1950, Annie Allen). Comprometida con la igualdad y la identidad racial, fue una poeta con conciencia política, dedicada activamente a llevar la poesía a todas las clases sociales, fuera de la academia. Brooks visitaba a Etheridge Knight después de su encarcelación para animarle en su escritura de poesía. Para leer los poemas de Etheridge Knight (en inglés) cliquea el enlace.

.

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000) was the first Black woman to win The Pulitzer Prize – in 1950 for her poetry collection Annie Allen. Concerned with racial equality and identity, Brooks dedicated herself to bringing poetry to people of all classes – outside of the realm of academe. A woman of political conscience, she would visit the unjustly over-incarcerated Etheridge Knight in jail to encourage him in the flowering of his poetic voice. Click the link below to read his poems.

https://zocalopoets.com/2014/01/28/etheridge-knight-my-life-the-quality-of-which/

.     .     .     .     .


Dany Laferrière: “Fire is nothing next to Ice…”

A young man bathes at a public shower in Petit Goâve, Haïti

Dany Laferrière (Windsor Klébert Laferrière)

(né 1953, à Petit Goâve, Haïti, vivant à Montréal, Canada)

Extraits de Chronique de la dérive douce / Excerpts from Chronicle of the Sweet Year Adrift (1994):

.

En plein hiver
je rêve à une île dénudée
dans la mer des Caraïbes
avant d’enfouir
ce caillou brûlant
si profondément
dans mon corps
que j’aurai
du mal
à le retrouver.

.

In the midst of winter

I dream of an island bare,

in the Caribbean sea,

before burying this smouldering head

so deep within my body that

I’d be hard put to find it again.

ZP_January 27th 2014 C

Le feu n’est rien
à côté de la glace
pour brûler un homme
mais pour ceux qui
viennent du sud,
la faim peut mordre
encore plus durement
que le froid.

.

Fire is nothing next to Ice

for burning a man

but for those who come from the south,

Hunger can bite much harder than the cold.

.

Translation from French: Alexander Best

.     .     .

Dany Laferrière est un écrivain haïtien-canadien qui a reçu le prix Médicis en 2009 pour son roman L’Énigme du Retour. Le Médicis est décerné à un auteur qui n’a pas encore une notoriété correspondant à son talent.

En décembre de 2013 Laferrière est devenu membre de l’Académie française.

.

Dany Laferrière is a Haitian-Canadian writer who received the Médicis Prize in 2009 for his novel The Enigma of Return. The Prix Médicis is given to an author whose fame is not yet as big as his artistry. In December of 2013 Laferrière was elected to the Académie Française, France’s most learnéd body on French linguistic matters.

.     .     .     .     .


Norman Jordan: “Como brotar un poema”

Cubierta del álbum vinilo de Sun Ra_Continuación_1968_Sun Ra album cover_Continuation_1968

Norman Jordan (nacido en 1938, Virgina del Oeste, EE.UU.)

El Sacrificio”

.

El precio de leche ha subido de nuevo

y el bebé está bebiendo más…

Carajo, supongo que tendré que

abandonar los cigarillos

por lo tanto arruinaré mis chances de

agarrar el cáncer.

WTF – no se puede tener todo.

.     .     .

Norman Jordan (born 1938, West Virginia, USA)

The Sacrifice”

.

The price of
milk has
gone up again
and the baby
is drinking more.
Hell,
I guess I’ll
have to give up
cigarettes
and blow my
chances
of catching lung
cancer.
What the fuck,
you can’t have
everything.

.     .     .

Alimentando a los Leones”

.

Se atreven en nuestro barrio

con el sol

un ejército de trabajadores sociales

llevando sus maletines;

relleno de mentiras y sonrisitas tontas;

distribuyendo cheques de asistencia y vales de despensa;

apurando de un departamento al otro para

llenar su cuota

y largarse

antes del ocaso.

El poeta en 1970

El poeta en 1970


Feeding the Lions”

.

They come into
our neighbourhood
with the sun,
an army of
social workers
carrying briefcases,
filled with lies
and stupid grins,
passing out relief
cheques
and food stamps,
hustling from one
apartment to another
so they can fill
their quota
and get back out
before dark.

.     .     .

Como brotar un poema”

.

En primer lugar,

pon unas siete cucharadas de palabras

en un frasco galón

.

Cubre las palabras

con ideas líquidas

y déjalas absorber por una noche

.

Por la mañana

vierte las viejas ideas y

enjuaga las palabras con pensamientos frescos

.

Inclina al revés en un rincón el frasco

y déjalo desaguar

.

Sigue con el enjuague, día con día,

hasta que se forma un poema

.

Finalmente,

coloca el poema en el sol

para que pueda agarrar el color de la Vida.

.     .     .

How to sprout a poem”

.

First, place

about seven

tablespoons of words

in a gallon jar

.

Cover the words

with liquid ideas

and let soak overnight

.

The following morning,

pour off the old ideas

and rinse

the words with fresh thoughts

Tilt the jar upside down

in a corner

and let it drain

.

Continue rinsing daily

until a poem forms

.

Last, place the poem

in the sunlight

so it can take on

the colour of Life.

.     .     .     .     .


George Jackson: Letter from a Soledad Brother

Glen Wheeler and Claudia Grayson, known as Sister Sheeba, stand outside George Jackson's funeral at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland, California_August 1971

Glen Wheeler and Claudia Grayson, known as Sister Sheeba, stand outside George Jackson’s funeral at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland, California_August 1971

Crowd outside in Oakland, California, when  George Jackson's coffin was being brought into St. Augustine's Church_photograph by Stephen Shames_August 1971

Crowd outside in Oakland, California, when George Jackson’s coffin was being brought into St. Augustine’s Church_photograph by Stephen Shames_August 1971

In 1960, at the age of eighteen, George Jackson (1941-1971)was accused of stealing $70 from a gas station in Los Angeles. Though there was evidence of his innocence, his court-appointed lawyer maintained that because Jackson had a record – two previous instances of petty crime – he should plead guilty in exchange for a light sentence in the county jail. He did so – and received an indeterminate sentence of one year to life. Jackson spent the next ten years in Soledad Prison, seven and a half of them in solitary confinement. Instead of succumbing to the dehumanization of prison existence, he transformed himself into a leading theoretician of the prison movement and a perceptive writer. Soledad Brother, which contains the letters that he wrote from 1964 to 1970, is his testament.

.

Excerpt from Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson:

March 1967

Dear Mama,

Papa has had the “true release, and at last the clasp of peace.” For him to have received this at such a great age and without violence is no small consolation. I loved him dearly and thought of him as one of our most practical and level-headed kin. You probably don’t remember the long walks and talks Papa and I used to take, or the long visits when he lived on Lake Street and we lived on Warren. But I remember. He used to say things, probably just thinking aloud, sure that I wasn’t listening or would not comprehend. But I did, and I think I knew him better than most. Do you remember how I used to answer “What” to every question put to me, and how Papa would deride me for this? He later in the course of our exchanges taught me to answer questions with “Why” instead of “What.”

Another of our games helped me greatly with my powers of observation. When we would walk, he told me to always look at the large signboards as deeply as possible and after we had passed one, he would make me recite all that was on it. I would never remember as much detail as he, but I did win a kind word or two on occasion. We played this same game at his house with pictures and objects spread out on the table or bed.

I wish he could have survived to see and enjoy the new world we plan to create from this chaos. If I could have gotten out of here last year he would never have gone out on sardines and crackers. I don’t know how anyone else views the matter and don’t care, but now for me his is one more voice added to the already thunderous chorus that cries from unmarked and unhallowed graves for vindication.

Don’t wait for me to change or modify my attitudes in the least. I cannot understand, as you put it, or as you would have me understand. I am a man, you are a woman. Being a woman, you may expect to be and enjoy being tyrannized. Perhaps you actually like walking at the heel of another, or otherwise placing yourself beneath another, but for me this is despicable. I refuse to even attempt to understand why I should debase myself or concede or compromise any part, the smallest part, of anything on earth to anyone who is not of my kind in thought and form. I love you, Mama, but I must be frank. Why did Papa die alone and hungry? Why did you think me insane for wanting a new bicycle instead of the old one I stole piece by piece and put together? Why did you allow us to worship at a White altar? Why even now, following tragedy after tragedy, crisis after crisis, do you still send Jon to that school where he is taught to feel inferior, and why do you continue to send me Easter cards? This is the height of disrespect you show me. You never wanted me to be a Man nor Jon either. You don’t want us to resist and defeat our Enemies. What is wrong with you, Mama? No other mama in history has acted the way you act under stress situations.

I won’t be a good “boy” ever

Love,

George

ZP_George Jackson_1941 to 1971

.     .     .     .     .


Walter Rodney: Tribute to George Jackson

Emory Douglas poster for The Black Panthers

Emory Douglas poster for The Black Panthers

Portrait of Walter Rodney, Guyanese historian and activist, 1942-1980

Portrait of Walter Rodney, Guyanese historian and activist, 1942-1980

Walter Rodney:  a tribute to George Jackson, November 1971:

To most readers in this continent, starved of authentic information by the imperialist news agencies, the name of George Jackson is either unfamiliar or just a name. The powers that be in the United States put forward the official version that George Jackson was a dangerous criminal kept in maximum security in America’s toughest jail and still capable of killing a guard at Soledad Prison [Monterey County, California]. They say that he himself was killed attempting escape this year in August. Official versions given by the United States of everything from the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to the Bay of Tonkin [Gulf of Tonkin] in Vietnam have the common characteristic of standing Truth on its head. George Jackson was jailed ostensibly for stealing 70 dollars. He was given a sentence of one year to life because he was Black, and he was kept incarcerated for years under the most dehumanizing conditions because he discovered that Blackness need not be a badge of servility but rather could be a banner for uncompromising Revolutionary struggle. He was murdered because he was doing too much to pass this attitude on to fellow prisoners. George Jackson was political prisoner and a Black freedom fighter. He died at the hands of the Enemy.

.

Once it is made known that George Jackson was a Black Revolutionary in the White Man’s jail, at least one point is established, since we are familiar with the fact that a significant proportion of African nationalist leaders graduated from colonialist prisons, and right now the jails of South Africa hold captive some of the best of our Brothers in that part of the continent. Furthermore, there is some considerable awareness that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned. Within this prison, Black Life is cheap, so it should be no surprise that George Jackson was murdered by the San Quentin prison authorities [at San Quentin State Prison, Marin County, California] who are responsible to America’s chief prison warder – Richard Nixon. What remains is to go beyond the generalities and to understand the most significant elements attaching to George Jackson’s life and death.

.

When he was killed in August this year, George Jackson was twenty nine years of age and had spent the last 11 years behind bars—seven of these in special isolation. As he himself put it, he was from the lumpen. He was not part of the regular producer force of workers and peasants. Being cut off from the system of production, lumpen elements in the past rarely understood the society which victimized them and were not to be counted upon to take organized revolutionary steps within capitalist society. Indeed, the very term lumpen proletariat was originally intended to convey the inferiority of this sector as compared with the authentic Working Class.

Yet George Jackson, like Malcolm X before him, educated himself, painfully, behind prison bars to the point where his clear vision of historical and contemporary reality and his ability to communicate his perspective frightened the U.S. power structure into physically liquidating him. Jackson’s survival for so many years in a vicious jail, his self-education, and his publication of Soledad Brother, were tremendous personal achievements, and in addition they offer an interesting insight into the revolutionary potential of the Black mass in the U.S.A., so many of whom have been reduced to the status of lumpen.

Etc…

To read Rodney’s full letter from November 1971 visit Revolutionary Frontlines at WordPress.


Etheridge Knight: “My Life, the quality of which…”

Street Scene_Lenox Avenue at 116th in Harlem_1960s

Street Scene_Lenox Avenue at 116th in Harlem_1960s

Etheridge Knight (Corinth, Mississippi, USA, 1931-1991)

My Life, the quality of which…”

.

My Life, the quality of which,

from the moment my father grunted and ‘cummed’,

until now, as the sounds of my words

bruised your ears,

is,

and can be felt,

in the one word:

Desperation

but you have to feel for it.

. . .

A WASP Woman visits a Black Junkie in Prison”

.

After explanations and regulations, he

Walked warily in.

Black hair covered his chin, subscribing to

Villainous ideal.

This can not be real,” he thought, “this is a

Classical mistake;

This is a cake baked with embarrassing icing;

Somebody’s got

Likely as not, a big fat tongue in cheek!

What have I to do

With a prim and proper-blooded lady?”

Christ in deed has risen

When a Junkie in prison visits with a WASP woman.

.

Hold your stupid face, man,

Learn a little grace, man; drop a notch the sacred shield.

She might have good reason,

Like: ‘I was in prison and ye visited me not,’ or—some such.

So sweep clear

Anachronistic fear, fight the fog,

And use no hot words.”

.

After the seating

And the greeting, they fished for a denominator,

Common or uncommon;

And could only summon up the fact that both were human.

Be at ease, man!

Try to please, man!—the lady is as lost as you:

You got children, Ma’am?’” he said aloud.

.

The thrust broke the dam, and their lines wiggled in the water.

She offered no pills

To cure his many ills, no compact sermons, but small

And funny talk:

My baby began to walk… simply cannot keep his room clean…”

Her chatter sparked no resurrection and truly

No shackles were shaken

But after she had taken her leave, he walked softly,

And for hours used no hot words.

. . .

A Fable”

.

Once upon a today and yesterday and nevermore there were 7 men and women all locked / up in prison cells. Now these 7 men and women were innocent of any crimes; they were in prison because their skins were black. Day after day, the prisoners paced their cells, pining for their freedom. And the non-black jailers would laugh at the prisoners and beat them with sticks and throw their food on the floor. Finally, prisoner #1 said, “I will educate myself and emulate the non-coloured people. That is the way to freedom—c’mon, you guys, and follow me.” “Hell, no,” said prisoner #2. “The only way to get free is to pray to my God and he will deliver you like he delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, so unite and follow me.” “Bullshit,” said prisoner #3. “The only way / out is thru this tunnel i’ve been quietly digging, so c’mon, and follow me.” “Unh-uh,” said prisoner #4, “that’s too risky. The only right / way is to follow all the rules and don’t make the non-coloured people angry, so c’mon brothers and sisters and unite behind me.” “Fuck you!” said prisoner #5, “The only way / out is to shoot our way out, if all of you get / together behind me.” “No,” said prisoner #6, “all of you are incorrect; you have not analyzed the political situation by my scientific method and historical meemeejeebee. All we have to do is wait long enough and the bars will bend from their own inner rot. That is the only way.” “Are all of you crazy,” cried prisoner #7. “I’ll get out by myself, by ratting on the rest of you to the non-coloured people. That is the way, that is the onlyway!” “No-no,” they all cried, “come and follow me. I have the / way, the only way to freedom.” And so they argued, and to this day they are still arguing; and to this day they are still in their prison cells, their stomachs / trembling with fear.

. . .

Feeling Fucked Up”

.

Lord she’s gone done left me done packed / up and split   

and I with no way to make her

come back and everywhere the world is bare

bright bone white    crystal sand glistens

dope death dead dying and jiving drove

her away made her take her laughter and her smiles   

and her softness and her midnight sighs—

Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky   

fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds

and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth   

fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and   

democracy and communism fuck smack and pot   

and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck   

god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon   

and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck   

the whole muthafucking thing

all i want now is my woman back

so my soul can sing.

Book cover_ Poems from Prison by Etheridge Knight_1968

Etheridge Knight was many things during his life: one of seven children whose family went from Mississippi to Kentucky to Indianapolis; shoe-shine boy; poolhall habitué; medic during the Korean War; heroin addict; ex-temporaneous “toaster”; purse snatcher + 8-year prison inmate; a serious and dedicated poet. His poetry volumes included Poems from Prison (1968) and Belly Songs and Other Poems (1973).

.     .     .     .     .