Brazilian Women Poets (Cadernos Negros / “Black Notebooks”, 1997): new translations from the Portuguese: Rufino, da Silva, Evaristo, Ribeiro, Vieira, Alves, Fátima, Tadeu

Steadfast and Strong_collage by Brazilian artist Ananda Nahu

Steadfast and Strong_collage by Brazilian artist Ananda Nahu

.
Alzira Rufino (born 1949, Santos, São Paulo state)
POLICE REPORT
.
The black woman is not stopped
by this brutish thing
by this lukewarm discrimination
your strength is a secret
show your speech through your pores
your scream will echo in the city
they weed your dignity
as poisonous weeds
they hurt you with arrows commended
they experiment on you
your négritude – Blackness –
disturbs,
your whirlpool of forces drowns all around it
they don’t want your presence
they cross your name with absence
come, black woman,
be, black woman,
see, black woman –
after the storm

. . .
BOLETIM DE OCORRÊNCIAS
.
Mulher negra não para
por essa coisa bruta
por essa discriminação morna
tua força ainda é segredo
mostra tua fala nos poros
o grito ecoará na cidade
capinam como mato venenoso
a tua dignidade
ferem-te com flechas encomendadas
te fazem alvo de experiências
tua negritude
incomoda
teu redemoinho de forças afoga
não querem a tua presença
riscam teu nome com ausência
mulher negra, chega,
mulher negra, seja,
mulher negra, veja,
depois do temporal
. . .
Ana Célia da Silva (born in Salvador da Bahia)
JOE
(To my father)
.
Down the street
there goes Joe,
sad and tired
Joe’s the people
Joe is Joe
An urn-less fakir
A stage-less actor
A nameless acrobat
There goes Joe
No present
No future
And any past he gets
he tries to forget
At times he cries
He rarely laughs
He always thinks
he’ll leave
as a sad inheritance
for the future
the tightrope
the shack
the empty casserole
and a bread-less family
. . .

(Para meu pai)
.
Descendo a rua
lá vai o Zé,
triste e cansado
ele é o povo
ele é o Zé.
Faquir sem urna,
ator sem palco,
acrobata anônimo,
lá vai o Zé.
Não tem presente,
Não tem futuro,
se tem passado
tenta esquecer.
Às vezes chora,
bem pouco ri,
vive pensando
que vai deixar
de triste herança
para o futuro,
a corda bamba,
o barracão
marmita vazia
e família sem pão.
. . .
Conceição Evaristo (born 1946, Belo Horizonte)
IN WRITING…
.
In writing hunger
With empty-palmed hands
when the hole-stomach
expels famished desires
there is, in this demented movement
the dream-hoping
for any leftovers.
.
In writing cold
with the tip of my bones
caring in my body the tremor
of pain and shelterless-ness
there is, in this tense movement
the warmth-hoping
for any miserable little vest.
.
In writing pain,
alone,
searching for the resonance
of another in me
there is in this constant movement
the illusion-hoping
for our doubled consonance.
.
In writing life
fading and swimming
on departure’s test tube
there is, in this useless movement
the treacherous-hoping
for catching Time
and caressing eternity.
. . .
AO ESCREVER…
.
Ao escrever a fome
com as palmas das mão vazias
quando o buraco-estômago
expele famélicos desejos
há neste demente movimento
o sonho-esperança
de alguma migalha alimento.
.
Ao escrever o frio
com a ponta de meus ossos
e tendo no corpo o tremor
da dor e do desabrigo,
há neste tenso movimento
o calor-esperança
de alguma mísera veste.
.
Ao escrever a dor,
sozinha,
buscando a ressonância
de outro em mim
há neste constante movimento
a ilusão-esperaça
da dupla sonância nossa.
.
Ao escrever a vida
no tubo de ensaio da partida
esmaecida nadando,
há neste inútil movimento
a enganosa-esperança
de laçar o tempo
e afagar o eterno.
. . .
Esmeralda Ribeiro (born 1958, São Paulo)
LOVE’S ENIGMA
.
There is an island
There is ivory
There is an archipelago in me
.
I’m the same actress rehearsing
every day
the same love case
lived by a whisker.
.
Inside me
solitude dressed as a Harlequin
.
I’m that one that although full of bruises
makes her body like cinnamon
perfumed grass
for her negro to sleep
.
Inside me
Illusions drawn with Indian ink
.
I am that woman
trying to wake up sleeping beauties
but, inside, I am a princess
in profound lethargy.
.
Inside me
a warrior’s strength dressed in satin.
.
I am that one who at night
hides as a chameleon
eye’s pearly drops
in warm passion.
.
Inside me
lives at last the enigma of love.
.
I am that one which no verb translates
before the loneliness and the pain,
that one with insane behaviours
That’s me – the eternal
Mary Joanne.
. . .
ENIGMA DO AMOR
.
Há uma ilha
há marfim
há tristes arquipélagos em mim.
.
Sou a mesma atriz que ensaia
todos os dias
o mesmo caso de amor
vivido por um triz.
.
Dentro de mim
solidão vestida de Arlequim.
.
Sou aquela cheia de hematomas,
mas que faz do corpo relva
com aroma de canela
pro seu negro dormir.
.
Dentro de mim
ilusões traçadas à nanquim.
.
Sou aquela mulher
tentando despertar belas adormecidas
mas, no íntimo, sou a princesa
em profunda letargia.
.
Dentro de mim
força guerreira vestida de cetim.

Sou aquela que à noite
esconde como camaleão
gotas de pérolas d’olho
na cálida paixão.
.
Dentro de mim
enfim mora o enigma do amor.
.
Sou aquela que nenhum verbo traduz
diante da solidão e da dor
aquela que tem atitudes insanas
Esta sou eu, a eterna
Maria Joana.
.

Ananda Nahu_Queen

Ananda Nahu_Queen

Lia Vieira (born 1958, Rio de Janeiro)
EAGERNESS
.
In the memory blinks
images of remote times
and recent things
The air is heavy
always has been
There’s hunger in the world outside
There’s no eating.
There’s tiredness in the world here inside
There is big fear
something frightful
As if nothing might
ever sprout again.
There’s something deformed here inside
Madness that explodes
about to crash / soul made of glass
Maybe is the answer I’m waiting for
Maybe is my ego
egocentric, egotistic, which
– throbbing –
is eager for love.
. . .
ÂNSIA
.
Pisca a memória
imagens de tempos remotos
e também de coisas recentes.
O ar está pesado
tem estado
No mundo lá for a há fome.
Não se come.
No mundo cá dentro há cansaço.
Há um medo grande
uma coisa de susto.
Como se fosse acontecer
não brotar nunca mais.
Há algo disforme cá dentro.
Loucura que explode
prestes a estilhaçar / alma de vidro.
Talvez seja a resposta que espero…
Talvez seja apenas meu ego,
egocêntrico, egoísta, que,
latejante …
deseja amor.
. . .
Miriam Alves (born 1952, São Paulo)
INNER LANDSCAPE
.
The night breeds chords
the joyful star turns into a moon
a dream’s sonata rolls along the asphalt
.
A sleeping sky confuses itself
the sun shines over it with
a middle-of-the-night smile
dew splashes on the roofs
.
The sky’s face muddles
half nights, half days
a dawn rises
a playful child is born
wrapped in dawn’s early hours
.
Wake up, day!
There’s eagerness for hope!
. . .
PAISAGEM INTERIOR
.
A madrugada respira acordes
estrela brincalhona enluará
sonata dum sonho rola asfalto
.
O céu todo em sono confunde-se
o sol ilumina-o com
um sorriso madrugada
respinga orvalho nos telhados
.
A face do céu confunde-se
meio em noites, meio em dias
desponta uma autora
nasce uma criança brincalhona
toda envolta em madrugada.
.
Acorda dia!
há fome de esperança!
. . .
Sônia Fátima (born 1951, Araraquara, São Paulo state)
THE IT
.
The night brought me it:
I don’t know if I call it
I don’t know if I contradict it
or if I just don’t care about
the Benedict
. . .
O DITO
.
A noite trouxe-me isto:
não sei se ligo para o dito
não sei se desdigo o dito
ou simplesmente não ligo
para o Benê-dito
. . .
Teresinha Tadeu (born in São Paulo)
STILTS
.
The dirty water grabs you
quietly, falsely, and you don’t even scream
You mix your innocence
with crab feces and mud
.
And you sleep precociously
holding your toy.
Gliding over the water
under the stilts.
.
The sun comes and goes
and doesn’t dry you out
in its foamy sheets
You’re one less to share the bread!
. . .
PALAFITAS
.
A água insalubre te recolhe
quieta, falsa, e tu nem gritas.
Misturas tua alvura
com fezes caranguejo e lama.
.
E dormes precocemente
segurando teu brinquedo.
Deslizando sob as águas
debaixo das palafitas.
.
O sol se vem e se vai
e não te enxuga
no lençol de espumas.
És menos um, na partilha do pão!
. . .

Other Black Brazilian poets featured in Cadernos Negros

https://zocalopoets.com/2014/06/

. . . . .


“The Road Before Us”: Gay Black Poets from a generation ago

Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Ice_B_February 2016

Preface to The Road Before Us: 100 Gay Black Poets (1991)
.
The Road Before Us could have taken a far different path. As its editor and co-publisher, what I wanted foremost was a collection that would provide one more stepping-stone on the road to gay black poetical empowerment. Too often this has been the road not taken.
.
Each poet in this volume is represented by one poem…..
I relish this mixture of styles, which are as wide-ranging as our concerns. The myths, metaphors, and mundaneness of our gay black community, like those of any other community, broaden and deepen everyone’s knowledge of what it is to be human.
.
Most of the poets in this anthology have never appeared in a book before…..
It is my dream that all these fine young writers will keep penning poetry, polishing their craft, and juicing up a literally dying art.
.
The title The Road Before Us is borrowed from a line in the poem “Hejira” that the late Redvers JeanMarie wrote about our friendship. He dedicated it to me. I cherish it. It is anthologized here. The choice of “gay black poets” rather than “black gay poets” was a personal one. I originally used the working subtitle Gay African-American Poets – to which some contributors strongly objected because they were not born in the United States and, moreover, have not chosen to naturalize as American citizens (as I have).
.
Afrocentrists in our community have chosen the term “black gay” to identify themselves. As they insist, black comes first. Interracialists in our community have chosen the term “gay black” to identify themselves. As they insist, gay comes first. Both groups’ self-descriptions are ironically erroneous. It’s not which word comes first that matters, but rather the grammatical context in which those words are used – either as an adjective or as a noun. An adjective is a modifier of a noun. The former is dependent upon the latter.
.
I have never labeled myself either Afrocentrist or interracialist. From reading or seeing my theatre pieces, many might characterize me as an Afrocentrist; but others might immediately characterize me as an interracialist because I have loved and lived with a white man for the past eleven years.
.
Although I make no excuses or apologies for the racially bold statements in my writings, I also owe no one any justification of my “till-death-do-us-part” interracialist relationship. While the black gay vs. gay black debate rages on, in much-needed constructive dialogue, we’d best ponder, as L. Lloyd Jordan did at the conclusion of his essay “Black Gay vs. Gay Black”(BLK, June 1990): “Who are gay blacks and black gays? Halves of a whole. Brothers.”
.
Furthermore, I consider my sexuality a preference. Most of us have an inclination to bisexuality that we don’t acknowledge or act upon. I am very proud of my gayness – which is not to be confused with homosexuality.
.
In the preface to his book Gay Spirit, Mark Thompson explains this distinction clearly: “Gay implies a social identity and consciousness actively chosen, while homosexual refers to a specific form of sexuality. A person may be homosexual, but that does not necessarily imply that he or she would be gay.”
I declare that a person may be gay – but not necessarily homosexual.
.
Colour – and it is much more than skin pigmentation – is not a preference. The same has not to this day been scientifically demonstrated regarding our gayness, which is so much more than sexual orientation. It’s hard to imagine that any writer in this anthology would ever want to change either his colour or his gayness, given a choice.
.
I realize that these views add fuel to the “fire and brimstone” pronouncements of those in far-right politics who argue that we lesbians and gays could change to “normal” if we wanted to.
.
While I agree with our lesbian and gay community’s tenet that some of us can’t change, I would stand up anytime to Jesse Helms and his ilk, and declare loudly that, whatever the case may be, I refuse to change. Far too many of us continuously let church and state dictate our fate, by submitting to their painful spiritual and political butt-fuck.
.
What does all this politics have to do with poetry?
As Judy Grahn said in a keynote address at OutWrite ’90: “Poetry predicts us, tells us where we are going next.”
.
Shouldn’t we, the poets in this anthology, dispatch to Helms our gay black poems each time he gets up in front of the Senate and spews forth yet another homophobic or racist harangue without fairness of debate and real challenge? Couldn’t fifty of us (one representing each state of siege that he wants to turn our USA into) also fax him full-size etchings of our dicks to be inserted in The Congressional Record. Then ours would not be the dicks of death – as popularly characterized – but truly the dicks of everlasting political life.
. . .
Some months ago I urged all the contributors who are HIV-positive or have AIDS to come out. I felt than, and I still feel, that there is nothing that those of us in this predicament could reveal in our bios that is more urgent and deserving of mention than our sero-positivity or diagnosis.
.
A number of contributors agreed. I applaud their trust and thrust. Others who have previously come out publicly chose not to do so in this instance. A few who I know to be in the last stages of HIV illness cited confidentiality and their right of privacy.
.
While sympathetic to the right of privacy issue, I also find it part of the overall problem. It fosters anonymity rather than visibility. And when we don’t show en masse the lives, the faces, and the hearts of AIDS – ours included – we are accepting all the connotations of shame, all the mystification of sin and repentance that those who are plainly simple-minded place on a virus.
.
AIDS is a Pandora’s Box.
There is real jeopardy in revealing sero-positivity, publicly or privately. In gay black poetry the issue has been primarily dealt with from a third-person narrative rather than a first-person focus.
.
Meanwhile, in highly disproportionate numbers compared to our percentage in the American population, and adding to the lowering of our expected paltry sixty-year-or-so lifespan as black men, there are many gay disappearing acts among us, too often played solo, or for a small – and not so captive – audience. As the late Joseph Beam, editor of In The Life, anticipated and stated: “These days the nights are cold-blooded and the silence echoes with complicity.”
.
Back in April 1988 Joe [Joseph Beam] stayed overnight at my apartment, as he always did when he visited New York City. I detected the [AIDS] syndrome beneath the moodiness, innuendoes, and fungus of the fingers. I did not disclose to him my own sero-positivity, although – thinking of it now – I believe that he detected more than just a holocaust obsession in the poems I shared with him.
.
What kind of “deadly guessing game” were Joe and I – two of the better-known gay black writers – supposedly leaders – and most importantly, friends – playing with each other? What kind of label do I attach to my name, after leaving unreturned messages on his answering maching, for not marching down to Philadelphia and knocking on / down his door?
.
Yes, I am sick of the destructive threats that HIV constantly poses to my life-partner, my lovers, my friends, my communities, and me. On my desk, pictures of Redvers [JeanMarie], David [Frechette], and Ortez [Alderson] – to whose memory this anthology is dedicated – are framed like icons.
.
Each time I write I hear their voices, backed by a chorus of others I loved (“One AIDS death every eight minutes; it ain’t enough to write, you gotta demonstrate!”) pound in my head, like those sanctifying drums, especially tambou assôto, I used to hear in my childhood in Haiti in the hours of darkness.
. . .
May the rhythm of our gay black hearts be as uplifting in our daily lives as it is in our essays, anthologies, films, rallies, one-night-stands – and poems.
.
May the rhetoric never rage like the grandstand of many pedantics in the gay white community, which we so often hasten to castigate for claiming to speak on behalf of our “rainbow” community.
.
And most of all, may we come to believe in each other – heroes, first, to ourselves – unafraid to “strike a pose” and take a stand.
.
Ours is a country where omens abound out of control. Ours is a country tempted by fascism. Ours is a country in a demythologized age, perhaps void of salvation. Yet I don’t believe in the destruction of America, but in a reconstitution that recognizes our fully participating gay black voices.
Silence = Death.
Writing = Life.
Publishing = Survival.
.
With sixty T-cells left, I live on borrowed time. However, self-pity and sympathy are not part of my survival kit – another factor why making this book a reality became a first priority.
.
But when I do die, killed like hundreds of thousands in this AIDS war, may it transpire that every Memorial Day – until the circus of media, clown masks of stigma, and jeers of hysteria stop in our country; and certainly until a cure is found, or at least until a do-or-die governmental, scientific, and societal commitment to discover one finally gets underway – my life-partner, mother, lovers, friends, fellow poets, somebody, anybody…burn the Stars and Stripes then toss the ashes over my grave.
.
And please don’t sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” – but, furiously, read back every poem in the following pages.
.
Assotto Saint, nom de guerre
Summer 1991, New York City

Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Ice_A_February 2016

Poems from The Road Before Us: 100 Gay Black Poets, edited by Assotto Saint, published 1991
. . .
Blackberri
Love Song
.
1.
you move me to poetry
to song
you’re often in my thoughts
are my thoughts
moving me to poetry
to song
then to poetry
2.
even your silence
tells me things
your heart can’t
and when you are near
you can no more
maintain than i
3.
in a dream
i loved you long
and deep
you let go
i let go
without a touch
i awoke wet
surprised
4.
you move me to poetry
to song
you’re in my fantasies
are my fantasies
realized
realize
you are moving me to poetry
to song
then to poetry
again

. . .
Eric Stephen Booth
An Exercise in Misogyny
.
So I lied and told her that I loved her
Starved, she took me seriously
My heart couldn’t make a U-turn
Out of pity I married her
.
I hit her when I was wrong, then gave her
Roses with thorns to reconfirm our vows
Out of fear of being exposed
Growing up just like dad
.
Through journeys of weekend violence
It dawned on me after our fourth child
That my heart wasn’t steering
And my brain was on automatic drive
.
She damned me to hell
My mother couldn’t believe her ears
After a lifetime of masculine strife
I came face to face with my fears
. . .’

Rory Buchanan
Barbecues
.
I was taught
men marry women
have two point five kids
ranch homes in suburbs
with impossibly green lawns
surrounded by
pristine white picket fences
shop at pathmark and k-mart
buy tools from sears
go to church every sunday
pray for salvation
find mistresses when bored
.
I was told
it was wrong to
love another man
touch the way I do
mingle spirits and fluids
feel okay about who I am
listen to my heart
expose the real me
admit to being gay
.
I was warned
that if I followed my
unconventional desires
slept with a man
satisfied wants
fulfilled needs
I would burn in hell
fry forever
.
So
I tell them
“Start the barbecue”.
. . .
John E. Bush
Remember Me
.
Remember me for the love I gave
and tried to give
for the companionship we shared
held dear
– remember me.
.
Although I would have liked
our time together to have been longer
so much I wanted to do
so much you expected of me
it was not to be
– still remember me.
.
Think about those good times
when we laughed and dined
at the table of fellowship
good times now gone
yet preserved forever in your memory
– remember me.
.
Know that my love for you
was not one that was duty-bound
but it emerged sincerely
from some unknown place
a love once mine
now left to you to hold
and pass on to others
when it is your turn to leave
– so remember me.
Not in a sorrow of despair
but triumphantly
remember me.
. . .
Rickey Butler
After the Fuck
.
when the sheets are up
the curtains drawn
and your eyes get all fuzzy
because of the sun,
don’t disappear
. . .
Don Charles
Pony Boy
.
White man
Wealthy man
Bed is cold
Body old
Black man
Healthy man
Firm and young
Heavy hung
.
Silver man
Pays to score
Horny guy
Out to buy
Mocha man
Plays the whore
Life is hell
Got to sell
.
Business man
Undercover
Hotel suite
So discreet
Hustler man
Hired lover
Money’s right
Spends the night
.
Respected man
Life of leisure
Owns the town
Sneaks around
Survivor man
Selling pleasure
Rich man’s toy
Pony boy
. . .
J. Coleman
When I write to Godmother
.
I’m careful with
Language
Slang takes a holiday
.
careful not to twist
my tongue
She must not hear the
loose metaphor nights
.
nor smell the necks I’ve licked –
.
I don’t smack my lips
She must not see
the boys I’ve kissed
nor hear the whispers –
.
She must not examine my prose
for nuance
nor read between
too many lines –
.
But if asked
I won’t deny perdition –
What price
a letter!
.
I feel pen pricks
in my soul.
.
With a clean sheet of paper in hand
and newly brushed teeth
I ask
.
“How are you?”
. . .
Carl Cook
Love Letter #25
.
September has
the clearest air
the coolest nights
the brightest moons lie still
like autumn leaves
I am renewed
by thoughts of you
.
Tomorrow
my love
I may need to wear a raincoat
galoshes made of manufactured latex
an umbrella wide enough
to keep us dry
in a sudden storm
.
But I am
of the faith
that storms will pass
the rains will dry
and love as cool and clear
as September air
will still be ours
. . .

Rodney G. Dildy
Heroes
.
The heroes have died
Died twisting to blind
leadened boogies
Died broken blue midst indigo
moods, sworded bone
unsheathed ivory
blood-burned biceps
Died cold-dredged
worm-swollen
thru mute catfish alleys
My heroes
they have all died
over or underqualified
neglected or exposed
from genius and gross
stupidities
Died dirty-nailed
greasy-necked
Died gem-cysted
diamond-eyed
Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Snow_A_February 2016
Sean Drakes
Love Lesson #1
(To Richard Cousar, whose death to AIDS encourages safer-sex behaviour, drives knowledge-sharing, stimulates my artistic responses to the epidemic, and has taught me what love feels like.)
.
I
.
A summer Sunday on Christopher Street
brought us together:
Two black gay men
yearning for love.
Quicker than instantly,
we shared secrets, passion,
weekends and underwear.
Suddenly, my six months exhausted,
I had to package
then file
this ideal come true.
I was twenty-one,
he, forty-three,
and rekindling
a thirteen-year romance
as I coped with foreign feelings.
.
II
.
The bright winter moon
guided me –
a messenger of good will
and faith
in a plastic pouch –
to and from his hospital
bedside.
Day by day,
kisses,
hugs
and offerings failed
to salvage my friend,
till after I hung up the phone,
a restless night
became
endless.
. . .
Roy Gonsalves
Black Summer
.
I know what it’s like to pick peppermint
from my garden
to make tea to calm my shattered nerves
wishing for magic to render sanity.
.
I’ve torn memories in my photos
ripped decorations by ex-lovers
snipped petunias for fun
burned hate letters in the fire of the grill.
I know what it’s like to recite
eighteen psalms in one night
to pray not to become one of Satan’s disciples
and cast a deadly spell.
.
I’ve heard whispers from my lover’s lips
telling me he’s sleeping with my so-called friend
I’ve lived harlequin romances
and watched them turn into bloody nightmares
where I became the murderer.
.
I know what it’s like to plot murder
to shoot a friend in the face
and watch his smile fall blank
to beat bloody my belovéd
with a hammer
and leave him in the cellar.
.
I know what it’s like to choke on hatred
despise the image in the mirror
and every living thing that moves.
I know the terror of being alone
for fear I might kill myself.
I’ve seen impatiens in my garden
shrivel up and die before my eyes.
I know what it’s like to be dead.
.
I’ve been to a funeral
in my own home
heard the ancestors scream:
“It’s not your time…”
I’ve watched summer turn black.
I know what it’s like to have your heart
turn into hot ice
waiting to burn.
. . .
L.D. Hartfield-Coe
Drifting
.
You have been wasting a life /
with struggle and strife /
still you wonder /
late at night /
will the dawn ever come /
the rain stop /
so you can /
reach out for the light /
and make amends /
raining again /
will the sun ever shine /
a rainbow will be his sign /

. . .
F. Spencer Irvin
Black Culture in the Park
.
There’s a lot of culture in the park.
From the handsomest B-boys
To the sassiest Divas;
The Black Bourgeosie
To Homeless America.
There’s a lot of culture in the park.
A large wooded area:
A place with fountains and ponds,
Hills and rocks, grass and trees
Where “boys” walk, look, searing,
And men grope, seek, searching
For orgasms.
Do you practise “safe sex”?
Neither did they.
There’s a lot of culture in the park.
A youngman of twenty-eight or so:
A beautiful man, but a man of the streets –
Survivor – he asked me to pay him
Three bucks, and he’d take care of me.
There’s a lot of Black culture in the park.
. . .

G. Winston James
To Be Brave
.
Can you hear my footsteps as I approach the waiting grave?
Can you see my despair as I descend into death’s cave?
Do you recall the day when I imbibed that savage blood?
Do you know of shattered dreams, crushing of frozen rosebud?
How can I look ’round at my prints buried in the deep snow?
How can I bear that as it melts all trace of me will go?
Can you hear my footsteps as I approach the waiting grave?
If so, will you be there with me to help me to be brave?
. . .
Redvers JeanMarie
Hejira
(for Yves Lubin)*
.
There were no colours
A night without azure
And a cloud-covered moon misted
Our skins
Such yearning could not be pinned
A rustle of trees gave no answers
Nor the ambient air
A sense of plenitude
The road before us with no symbols
A restrictive sense of nothingness
Wrapped us firm
I’ve a natural strength
And can follow with you
I heard myself
Whisper
Questions long forgotten
What we’ve become
Has no name
. . .
* Yves Lubin = Assotto Saint
. . .
Sidney Curtis Johnson
Sunday, November 6, 1987
.
He came
like
the day
awakening
colour
without
ever
straining
its reason.

.

I stared
like
a child
at the circus
awed
with
dim hope
answering
his call.

. . .
Anthony B. Knight-Dewey
Loneliness
.
Loneliness is an abandoned house.
It creaks with stillness and rests
on the blackness of its foundation.
It sits alone in the backyard of our minds,
yet stands out and demands recognition.
It hides elusively behind the rubbish of life,
yet shines a light most radian from its highest loft.
It is weather-beaten from years of torment and anguish,
but still retains its shape and strength.
.
Loneliness gives no clues or suggestions.
Secrets are hidden and locked away in the attic of darkness.
Groans and cries race through the pitted corridor
down the infested stairwell
to the moldy basement.
.
Loneliness gathers dust in the dungeon of time.
The windows of hope and aspiration are boarded up
with the greyness of despair.
.
Yet, only in loneliness does one experience
all those dimensions that are one,
those distant faraway lands of beingness –
the spirit supreme,
the temple eternal.
. . .
Steve Langley
Butch
.
My name Butch
I work at the hardware store
I got this l’il gal I be messin wif
Fine as shit
She wanna move in wif me
But I don’t need no bitch up under me
Wantin this and that
I be hangin out at this punk club
Somethin to do
I may get a drink, get high
But I don’t talk to nobody
If I do hook wif somebody
I go to they place
I may let em suck my dick
I may fuck em
But I don’t be kissin em
And they bet not try to kiss me
I’ll beat the shit out of em
I don’t give em my name or my number
Not my real one
Once I git off
I’m gone
. . .
Harvey J. Lucas
Too Late to Say I Love You
(for David)
.
Often he was parental,
But the rebellious pride masked
His contentment with concern.
.
Often he was great,
Generic in dress – forceful passion –
And a dynamic friend.
.
Often he was risqué,
Public kisses – arrogant smirks –
Not afraid to say anything.
.
Now, I often remember him:
Consumed by that inscrutable entity
Of eternal silence.
. . .
Jerome Mack
Flaw
.
Sometimes
i wish i could
rid myself
of this skin
that covers me
subdue carnality
pick fights
with truth
pull husk
over conscience
i would…
there’s just no
hiding place
.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Snow_February 2016
Scott Mackey
I Couldn’t Speak His Language
(for Romuald Du Clos de Saint André)
.
when i first me him
he was only a boy,
but not really.
.
he allowed me to believe
i was in control – the man,
old, wise and mature.
.
reality obscured the dream
because
i couldn’t speak his language.
.
he knew
but needed to hear
what i couldn’t say.
.
a part of me burns
as i become
desperately aware of my mortality.
.
i didn’t realize
.
how important
words could be.
. . .
Vernon Maulsby
Gender Bender
(To Richard)
.
Is it safe for me
to let my hair down
and speak freely with you?
Will this woman’s heart
speaking through a deep throat
make you dismiss me
as just another gender bender,
incomplete in your eyes?
Can I share the men I’ve loved,
the women I’ve liked, the fears
of death that sired my children?
Would you understand,
or should I just sit here,
and make lewd jokes, as we
talk of sports I never watch?
. . .
Rodney McCoy, Jr.
Pop
.
I used to dream
of a ghost in
silk
satin
lace
.
Dreaming of
gold
tightening around
my finger
like a blessing
or was it a noose
.
These dreams
were my mother’s smile
handed down
to my sister
and me
thinking it was
our birthright
our duty
our gift to her
.
But the day I kissed
your mustached lips
silk
satin
lace
to me
.
Those dreams
and my mother’s smile
popped loud
painful
absent forever
. . .
Jim Murrell
Bermuda
.
Fine.
Hot.
Luminous.
Infinite carapace of day ingathers hard, riding noon fire
On molten hillocks beyond the coral.
Sun-drovered come
Sarabands of iodine, nomad across the sea grape.
Pupils burn to pinpoint smoke: rolling glitter of
Water’s desert.
Our boat burns in rise and slap
And indigo swells from the east:
My father, the friends of his youth, myself.
.
And I am thirteen, struggling to man manliness.
Head, heart, stomach…vortex.
Resolve eddies on fuming wash of clubbed fish blood.
Betrayal of inner ear for which gravity is not enough.
And the rum talk: pompous, monotonous.
Men and ritual braiding the deep world into submission –
Pattern of a weaving,
A harnessing I cannot learn.
. . .
L. Phillip Richardson
The Book of Lists
.
so fickle ink on first acquaintance
i penciled them in
the urban gods
the fleeting sparkles
the would-be stars
were the heavens kinder those days
.
by name i now browse the list
the ABCs of ruthless order
unordered by homeless strays
the innumerable nicknames
attached to numbers
on unattached slips of paper
at home in my book
like family
.
i remember the first call
in my ear the first word
high on “hi”
the voice vibrating man vibes
then the jittery jive
of jigsaw sympathies
the flirts
the dirts
the jerks
the hurts
still hurting
.
suddenly i see
the old book older
its frayed memories losing the fray
as some fall free
come loose without restraint
no spine
no rubber binds them
holds them close
.
i chill
with each name i can’t erase
how graceless and cheap faint recall
leaving dead men in leaded glory
in the book of lists
i keep
. . .
Bryan Scott
Roller Coaster
.
You’ve called but haven’t spoken.
You’ve expressed but haven’t clearly stated.
You’ve suggested but haven’t taken action.
You’ve reached out but haven’t connected.
You’ve touched but haven’t felt.
You’ve been here yet you seemed elsewhere.
You’ve mentioned “love” but implied “like”.
Before I get on this emotional rollercoaster
I’d better listen to the silence…
. . .
Jamez L. Smith
Dreaded Visitation
(for my Grandmother)
.
The knock on the door
on the lazy Saturday afternoon
comes
like the toll of Donne’s bell.
Someone runs
and turns the television off.
The air becomes as still
as a dead fish.
Slowly, carefully,
Grandmama tips toward the window.
Another knock breaks
the silence,
and Grandmama freezes
like a doe suddenly aware
of the hunters stalking her.
Finally,
Grandmama reaches the window
and, recognizing the form outside,
breathes a sigh of relief.
She opens the door.
“What took you so long?”
the visitor asks.
Grandmama replies:
“We thought you was a Jehovah’s Witness.”
. . .
Marvin K. White
Last Rights
.
When I learned of Gregory’s death
I cried silently
But at the funeral
Giiiiirl I’m telling you
I rocked Miss Church
Hell I fell to my knees twice
before I reached my seat
Three people had to carry me
To my pew
I swayed and swooned
Blew my nose
On any and every available sleeve
The snot was flying everywhere
Then when I finally saw his body
My body jerked itself
Right inside that casket
And when I placed my lips on his
Honey the place was shaking
I returned to my seat
But not before passing by his mother
Who I’m sure at this point
Was through with me
I threw myself on her knees
Shouting “Help me
Help me Jesus”
When someone in the choir
Sang out “Work it girl
Wooooork it”
All hell broke loose
I was carried out
Kicking and screaming
Ushered into the waiting limo
Which sped me to his family’s house
Where I feasted
On fried chicken
Hot water corn bread
Macaroni and cheese
Johnny Walker Black
Finally in my rightful place
. . .

Andre De Shields
His (Blues) Story
.
Verse I
.
Before there was Desdemona,
Iago would warm Othello’s bed.
Before there was Desdemona,
Iago would warm Othello’s bed.
He would sharpen his sword,
Fill his lamp with oil,
And rub his woolly head.
.
Verse II
.
Before Caesar knew Cleopatra,
He would hold Mark Antony to his chest.
Before Caesar knew Cleopatra,
He would hold Mark Antony to his chest.
And that’s why the Queen of the Nile
Invited a serpent to make a home in her breast.
.
Stop Time
.
Now Achilles destroyed the Trojans
Because of a boy in his tent.
And if it hadn’t been for Jimmy Baldwin,
Young Giovanni would’ve had no rent.
When Alexander marched out of Egypt,
He was fierce; he was festive; he was grand.
And when Jesus chose his disciples,
He made everyone a man.
.
Verse III
.
So,
when you study your history,
You’d better learn it like you should.
‘Cause after God created the Heavens and the Earth,
And separated the light from the darkness,
And divided the water from the waters,
And gathered the dry land from the seas,
And produced vegetation according to its kind,
And hung the moon, and sun, and stars in the sky,
And threw birds in the air and fish in the ocean,
And placed wild creatures in the forest,
God said:
“I’m lonely. I think I’ll make Me a man in My image.”
And, so, He did.
Then, God looked around at all He had done and shouted:
“This is good.”

. . .

Assotto Saint (born Yves François Lubin) was a Haitian-American poet, performance artist, musician and editor. He increased the visibility of black queer authors and themes during the 1980s and early 1990s. In addition, Saint was both one of the first black activists to disclose his HIV-positive status and one of the first poets to respond to the AIDS crisis in his work.

Assotto Saint photographed by Robert Giard in 1987

Assotto Saint photographed by Robert Giard in 1987

. . . . .


Countee Cullen: poems from “The Black Christ” (1929) and “Color” (1925)

Illustration from 1929 by Charles Cullen for the epic poem The Black Christ written by Countee Cullen 1903 to 1946

Poems from The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929) by Countee Cullen (1903-1946)
. . .
Little Sonnet to Little Friends
.
Let me not the proud of heart condemn
Me that I mould my ways to hers,
Groping for healing in a hem
No wind of passion ever stirs;
Nor let them sweetly pity me
When I am out of sound and sight;
They waste their time and energy;
No mares encumber me at night.
.
Always a trifle fond and strange,
And some have said a bit bizarre,
Say, “Here’s the sun,” I would not change
It for my dead and burnt-out star.
Shine as it will, I have no doubt
Some day the sun, too, may go out.
. . .
Mood
.
I think an impulse stronger than my mind
May some day grasp a knife, unloose a vial,
Or with a little leaden ball unbind
The cords that tie me to the rank and file.
My hands grow quarrelsome with bitterness,
And darkly bent upon the final fray;
Night with its stars upon a grave seems less
Indecent than the too complacent day.
.
God knows I would be kind, let live, speak fair,
Requite an honest debt with more than just,
And love for Christ’s dear sake these shapes that wear
A pride that had its genesis in dust,–
The meek are promised much in a book I know
But one grows weary turning cheek to blow.

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the poem Minutely Hurt_1929

Minutely Hurt
.
Since I was minutely hurt,
Giant griefs and woes
Only find me staunchly girt
Against all other blows.
.
Once an atom cracks the heart
All is done and said;
Poison, steel, and fiery dart
May then be buffeted.
. . .

Revelation
.
Pity me, I said;
But you cried, Pity you;
And suddenly I saw
Higher than my own grief grew.
I saw a tree of woe so tall,
So deeply boughed with grief,
That matched with it my bitter plant
Was dwarfed into a leaf.
. . .
Song in Spite of Myself
.
Never love with all your heart,
It only ends in aching;
And bit by bit to the smallest part
That organ will be breaking.
.
Never love with all your mind,
It only ends in fretting;
In musing on sweet joys behind,
Too poignant for forgetting.
.
Never love with all your soul,
For such there is no ending,
Though a mind that frets may find control,
And a shattered heart find mending.
.
Give but a grain of the heart’s rich seed,
Confine some under cover,
And when love goes, bid him God-speed.
And find another lover.
. . .
One Day I Told My Love
.
One day I told my love my heart,
Disclosed it out and in;
I let her read the ill-writ chart
Small with virtue, big with sin.
.
I took it from the hidden socket
Where it was wont to grieve;
“I’ll turn it,” I said, “into a locket,
Or a bright band for your sleeve.”
.
I let her hold the naked thing
No one had seen before;
And had she willed, her hand might wring
It dry and drop it to the floor.
.
It was a gentle thing she did,
The wisest and the best;
“The proper place for a heart,” she said
“Is back in the sheltering breast.”
. . .
Black Majesty
(After reading John W. Vandercook’s chronicle of sable glory)
.
These men were kings, albeit they were black,
Christophe and Dessalines and L’Ouverture;
Their majesty has made me turn my back
Upon a plaint I once shaped to endure.
These men were black, I say, but they were crowned
And purple-clad, however brief their time.
Stifle your agony; let grief be drowned;
We know joy had a day once and a clime.
.
Dark gutter-snipe, black sprawler-in-the-mud,
A thing men did a man may do again.
What answer filters through your sluggish blood
To these dark ghosts who knew so bright a reign?
“Lo, I am dark, but comely,” Sheba sings.
“And we were black,” three shades reply, “but kings.”

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the 1929 poem Song of Praise by Countee Cullen
Song of Praise
.
Who lies with his milk-white maiden,
Bound in the length of her pale gold hair,
Cooled by her lips with the cold kiss laden,
He lies, but he loves not there.
.
Who lies with his nut-brown maiden,
Bruised to the bone by her sin-black hair,
Warmed with the wine that her full lips trade in,
He lies, and his love lies there.

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the epic poem "The Black Christ" by Countee Cullen

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the epic poem “The Black Christ” by Countee Cullen

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the 1929 epic poem The Black Christ by Countee CullenCharles Cullen illustration for The Black Christ_1929.     .     .

Four poems from Countee Cullen’s Color (1925)

.
Caprice
.
“I’ll tell him, when he comes,” she said,
“Body and baggage, to go,
Though the night be darker than my hair,
And the ground be hard with snow.”
.
But when he came with his gay black head
Thrown back, and his lips apart,
She flipped a light hair from his coat,
And sobbed against his heart.
. . .
Sacrament
.
She gave her body for my meat,
Her soul to be my wine,
And prayed that I be made complete
In sunlight and starshine.
.
With such abandoned grace she gave
Of all that passion taught her,
She never knew her tidal wave
Cast bread on stagnant water.
. . .
Bread and Wine
.
From death of star to new star’s birth,
This ache of limb, this throb of head,
This sweaty shop, this smell of earth,
For this we pray, “Give daily bread.”
.
Then tenuous with dreams the night,
The feel of soft brown hands in mine,
Strength from your lips for one more fight:
Bread’s not so dry when dipped in wine.
. . .
Gods
.
I fast and pray and go to church,
And put my penny in,
But God’s not fooled by such slight tricks,
And I’m not saved from sin.
.
I cannot hide from Him the gods
That revel in my heart,
Nor can I find an easy word
To tell them to depart:
.
God’s alabaster turrets gleam
Too high for me to win,
Unless He turns His face and lets
Me bring my own gods in.

. . . . .


Black History Month: Vintage Black Paper Dolls

"Aunt Dinah, the Colored Cook, comes to join the Paper Doll Family"_McCall's Magazine, April 1911_Aunt Dinah is presented in a realistic, straightforward manner, as all the dolls in this McCall's series were.

“Aunt Dinah, the Colored Cook, comes to join the Paper Doll Family”_McCall’s Magazine, April 1911_Aunt Dinah is presented in a realistic, straightforward manner, as all the dolls in this McCall’s series were.

.     .     .

In the early twentieth century, paper dolls were a popular plaything for children. Cheap and easy to make, these cut-out paper figures could be dressed with paper clothes attached by tabs. The figures were often of idealistic characters: beautiful children, perfect families, fashionable ladies representing the power élite of the day. Boxed sets and books could be readily bought in stores, but many were available in magazines and newspaper comic strips as a special treat for the kids.
.
From the late 1800s to the mid 1950s, black paper dolls were rare and stereotypical in white-owned North-American media. Black adult females were shown as maids or ‘mammies’, caregivers to young white children. Black children as paper dolls always had at least one garment that was tattered and patched, and black adult males were almost never shown.
.
The outstanding exception to the above stereotypes was the creation of Torchy Brown by a black woman cartoonist named Jackie Ormes. The Torchy Brown comic strips and accompanying paper dolls appeared in black newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender in the early 1950s. Torchy herself, created by Ormes in the 1930s, was a strong and glamorous woman-of-colour who certainly did not wear rags. With the advent of desegregation and the Black Power movement in the United States, more and more positive images of black paper dolls finally appeared.
.
The images shown here cover the early stereotypes. Yet one can understand that, at the time, many blacks may have been pleased to see any representations of themselves in prestigious magazines such as McCall’s and Woman’s Home Companion. It was also during this period – in 1939, to be exact – that Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for portraying a ‘mammy’ in the film “Gone With The Wind”;  McDaniel was also featured in a paper doll book of the film.

Bruce Patrick Jones

.     .     .

Rastus_Little Louise's Friend_Vintage Black paper doll_from Good Housekeeping, November 1909

Rastus_Little Louise’s Friend_Vintage Black paper doll_from Good Housekeeping, November 1909

Charming Rastus, gently stereotyped with patches and watermelon, was positioned as a friend of Little Louise, a blond, blue-eyed girl.

Farina (little girl in the middle)_from the Our Gang series in_Woman's Home Companion, October 1925

Farina (little girl in the middle)_from the Our Gang series in_Woman’s Home Companion, October 1925

Patches and rags define pretty Farina, though Fattie’s costume is tattered too. This exquisite illustration was by Frances Tipton Hunter.

Katy's black mammy has taken care of her ever since she was a little baby_painted by Katharine Shane_from Woman's Home Companion, June 1927

Katy’s black mammy has taken care of her ever since she was a little baby_painted by Katharine Shane_from Woman’s Home Companion, June 1927

What well-to-do little girl from The South wouldn’t have had her very own ‘mammy’ in 1927?

Mandy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, September 1932

Mandy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, September 1932

Mandy, a warm and loving creation by Canada’s Lydia Fraser.

Topsy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, October 1932

Topsy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, October 1932

Topsy’s ‘kitchen dress’ suggests she’ll follow mommy Mandy’s line of work.

Topsy's Brother Sam by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, July 1933

Topsy’s Brother Sam by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, July 1933

Sam’s wardrobe defines a hard workin’ little guy: bellboy and newspaper seller.  As well – the ubiquitous patches on his overalls.

Sunny Sammy's Nurse Diana_drawn by Corinne Pauli Waterall_from Pictorial Review, March 1934

Sunny Sammy’s Nurse Diana_drawn by Corinne Pauli Waterall_from Pictorial Review, March 1934

Sunny Sammy’s cherub-cheeked nurse pre-dates Hattie McDaniels in “Gone With The Wind”.

Svarta Nelly_Elefantbabyn_Krokodilungen_Tre påklädningsdockor från Negerlandet_Vintage Black paper doll from a 1935 Swedish newspaper called Allers

Svarta Nelly_Elefantbabyn_Krokodilungen_Tre påklädningsdockor från Negerlandet_Vintage Black paper doll from a 1935 Swedish newspaper called Allers

Black Nelly was a Swedish take on a little African girl, shown here with a totally European set of clothes.

Little Black Sambo by Martin_from an Oklahoma City newspaper_June 1937

Little Black Sambo by Martin_from an Oklahoma City newspaper_June 1937

Sweet Little Sambo seems almost to be a cartoon version of Rastus (second from top).

Effie Slivers_appeared in Lena Pry and Jane Arden comic strips_by Monte Barrett and Jack W. McGuire_Vintage Black paper doll from 1938

Effie Slivers_appeared in Lena Pry and Jane Arden comic strips_by Monte Barrett and Jack W. McGuire_Vintage Black paper doll from 1938

Effie Slivers was Lena Pry’s (mouthy) maid in this 1930s strip. Lucky Effie gets a dressy outfit, too.

Opal_from Girls: Boots and her Buddies by Martin_from The Detroit News, Sunday December 11th, 1938

Opal_from Girls: Boots and her Buddies by Martin_from The Detroit News, Sunday December 11th, 1938

Opal was a stark contrast to slim, blonde Boots, star of the comic strip in which Opal appeared. Still, artist Martin did give her a rich wardrobe.

.     .     .

Zócalo Poets feature about Jackie Ormes: https://zocalopoets.com/2015/02/28/jackie-ormes-torchy-candy-patty-jo-ginger/

.     .     .

Opening today (February 20th):

Stereotypes to Civil Rights: Black Paper Dolls in America

featuring the private collection of author, lecturer, and collector Arabella Grayson, and exploring the 150-year evolution of cultural images of African-Americans in paper dolls—from Little Black Sambo and Aunt Jemima to Jackie Robinson and Missy Elliott.

Till August 21st, 2016,

at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures,

Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.

http://www.toyandminiaturemuseum.org

 

 .     .     .     .     .


Neema Namadamu: a Congolese activist / une activiste congolaise

Activist Neema Namadamu_photoportrait by Peter Muller_ from Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out / Photoportrait de Neema Namadamu par Peter Muller

Activist Neema Namadamu_photoportrait by Peter Muller_ from Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out / Photoportrait de Neema Namadamu par Peter Muller

Neema Namadamu stands for a portrait outside the Maman Shujaa Media Centre in Bukavu, South Kivu, on February 25th, 2014. After her own 25-year-old daughter was attacked by members of the Congolese national army, Neema launched into action. She founded Maman Shujaa—an initiative that uses digital media to amplify the voices of women demanding peace in eastern Congo. From a media centre in the heart of Bukavu, Neema provides digital and internet literacy training to women who share their stories online with a global audience. She is also an outspoken disability activist and was the first woman with a disability to graduate from a college in Congo.
.
Neema Namadamu prend la pose pour une photo à l’extérieur du Centre medical Maman Shujaa, à Bukavu (Sud Kivu), le 25 février 2014. Après que sa propre fille de 25 ans a été attaquée par des membres de l’armée nationale congolaise, Neema est passée à l’action. Elle a fondé Maman Shujaa, une initiative qui utilise les médias numériques pour mieux faire entendre les voix des femmes qui demandent la paix dans l’est du Congo. À partir d’un centre multimédia au coeur de Bukavu, Neema offre une formation sur la culture numérique et sur Internet aux femmes qui partagent leurs histoires en ligne avec un public mondial. C’est également une militante au franc parler des droits des personnes ayant un handicap et elle a été la première femme handicapée à obtenir un diplôme d’un collège du Congo.

Photographer Goran Tomasevic_picture of DRC armed forces soldiers in the town of Sake west of Goma_December 2012

Photographer Goran Tomasevic_picture of DRC armed forces soldiers in the town of Sake west of Goma_December 2012

Detail of a map of the east middle part of Democratic Republic of The Congo showing the city of Bukavu on Lake Kivu_sections of Rwanda and Burundi are also shown

Detail of a map of the east middle part of Democratic Republic of The Congo showing the city of Bukavu on Lake Kivu_sections of Rwanda and Burundi are also shown

.
http://namadamu.com/maman-shujaa
.
http://www.beautyinthemiddle.org/image-index2/

. . . . .


Black History Month: Thomas Washington Talley’s “Negro Folk Rhymes –– Wise and Otherwise” (1922)

Vintage Valentine 1

Selections from: Thomas Washington Talley’s “Negro Folk Rhymes –– Wise and Otherwise” (1922)
. . .

Love is just a Thing of Fancy
.
Love is jes a thing o’ fancy,
Beauty’s jes a blossom;
If you wants to git yo’ finger bit,
Stick it at a ‘possum.
.
Beauty, it’s jes skin deep;
Ugly, it’s to de bone.
Beauty, it’ll jes fade ‘way;
But Ugly’ll hold ‘er own.
. . .
Joe and Malinda Jane
.
Ole Joe jes swore upon ‘is life
He’d make Merlindy Jane ‘is wife.
W’en she hear ‘im up ‘is love an’ tell,
She jumped in a bar’l o’ mussel shell.
She scrape ‘er back till de skin come off.
Nex’ day she die wid de Whoopin’ Cough.
. . .
I love Somebody
.
I loves somebody, yes I do;
An’ I wants somebody to love me too.
Wid my chyart an’ oxes stan’in ‘roun’,
Her pretty liddle foot needn’ tetch de groun’.
.
I loves somebody, yes I do,
Dat randsome, handsome, Stickamastew.
Wid her reddingoat an’ waterfall,
She’s de pretty liddle gal dat beats ’em all.
. . .
Likes and Dislikes
.
I sho’ loves Miss Donie! Oh yes, I do!
She’s neat in de waist,
Lak a needle in de case;
An’ she suits my taste.
I’se gwineter run wid Mollie Roalin’! Oh yes, I will!
She’s pretty an’ nice
Lak a bottle full o’ spice,
But she’s done drap me twice.
.
I don’t lak Miss Jane! Oh no, I don’t.
She’s fat an’ stout,
Got her mouf sticked out,
An’ she laks to pout.
. . .
Sugar Loaf Tea
.
Bring through yo’ Sugar-lo’ tea, bring through yo’ Canday,
All I want is to wheel, an’ tu’n, an’ bow to my Love so handy.
.
You tu’n here on Sugar-lo’ tea, I’ll turn there on Candy.
All I want is to wheel, an tu’n, an’ bow to my Love so handy.
.
Some gits drunk on Sugar-lo’ tea, some gits drunk on Candy,
But all I wants is to wheel, an’ tu’n, an’ bow to my Love so handy.
. . .
Kissing Song
.
A sleish o’ bread an’ butter fried,
Is good enough fer yo’ sweet Bride.
Now choose yo’ Lover, w’ile we sing,
An’ call ‘er nex’ onto de ring.
.
“Oh, my Love, how I loves you!
Nothin’ ‘s in dis worl’ above you.
Dis right han’, fersake it never.
Dis heart, you mus’ keep forever.
One sweet kiss I now takes from you;
Caze I’se gwine away to leave you.”

. . .

Kneel on this Carpet
.
Jes choose yo’ Eas’; jes choose yo’ Wes’.
Now choose de one you loves de bes’.
If she hain’t here to take ‘er part
Choose some one else wid all yo’ heart.
.
Down on dis chyarpet you mus’ kneel,
Shore as de grass grows in de fiel’.
Salute yo’ Bride, an’ kiss her sweet,
An’ den rise up upon yo’ feet.
. . .
Sweet Pinks and Roses
.
Sweet pinks an’ roses, strawbeers on de vines,
Call in de one you loves, an’ kiss ‘er if you minds.
Here sets a pretty gal,
Here sets a pretty boy;
Cheeks painted rosy, an’ deir eyes battin’ black.
You kiss dat pretty gal, an’ I’ll stan’ back.
. . .
You love your Girl
.
You loves yo’ gal?
Well, I loves mine.
Yo’ gal hain’t common?
Well, my gal’s fine.
.
I loves my gal,
She hain’t no goose –
Blacker ‘an blackberries,
Sweeter ‘an juice.
. . .
Down in the Lonesome Garden
.
Hain’t no use to weep, hain’t no use to moan;
Down in a lonesome gyardin.
You cain’t git no meat widout pickin’ up a bone,
Down in a lonesome gyardin.
.
Look at dat gal! How she puts on airs,
Down in de lonesome gyardin!
But whar did she git dem closes she w’ars,
Down in de lonesome gyardin?
.
It hain’t gwineter rain, an’ it hain’t gwineter snow;
Down in my lonesome gyardin.
You hain’t gwineter eat in my kitchen doo’,
Nor down in my lonesome gyardin.
. . .
A Wind-Bag
.
A Nigger come a-struttin’ up to me las’ night;
In his han’ wus a walkin’ cane,
He tipped his hat an’ give a low bow;
“Howdy-doo! Miss Lize Jane!”
.
But I didn’t ax him how he done,
Which make a hint good pinned,
Dat I’d druther have a paper bag,
When it’s sumpin’ to be filled up wid wind.
. . .
Why look at Me?
.
What’s you lookin’ at me for?
I didn’ come here to stay.
I wants dis bug put in yo’ years,
An’ den I’se gwine away.
.
I’se got milk up in my bucket,
I’se got butter up in my bowl;
But I hain’t got no Sweetheart
Fer to save my soul.
. . .
A Short Letter
.
She writ me a letter
As long as my eye.
An’ she say in dat letter:
“My Honey –– Good-by!
. . .
A Request to Sell
.
Gwineter ax my daddy to sell ole Rose,
So’s I can git me some new clo’s.
Gwineter ax my daddy to sell ole Nat,
So’s I can git a bran’ new hat.
Gwineter ax my daddy to sell ole Bruise,
Den I can git some Brogran shoes.
Now, I’se gwineter fix myse’f “jes so”,
An’ take myse’f down to Big Shiloh.
I’se gwine right down to Big Shiloh
To take dat t’other Nigger’s beau.

. . .
Coffee grows on White Folks’ Trees
.
Coffee grows on w’ite folks’ trees,
But de Nigger can git dat w’en he please.
De w’ite folks loves deir milk an’ brandy,
But dat black gal’s sweeter dan ‘lasses candy.
.
Coffee grows on w’ite folks’ trees,
An’ dere’s a river dat runs wid milk an’ brandy.
De rocks is broke an’ filled wid gold,
So dat yaller gal loves dat high-hat dandy.
. . .
Kept Busy
.
Jes as soon as de sun go down,
My True-love’s on my min’.
An’ jes as soon as de daylight breaks
De white folks is got me a gwine.
.
She’s de sweetes’ thing in town;
An’ when I sees dat Nig,
She make my heart go “pitty-pat”,
An’ my head go “whirly-gig.”
. . .
Pretty little Pink
.
My pretty liddle Pink,
I once did think,
Dat we-uns sho’ would marry;
But I’se done give up,
Hain’t got no hope,
I hain’t got no time to tarry.
I’ll drink coffee dat flows,
From oaks dat grows,
‘Long de river dat flows wid brandy.
. . .
A bitter Lovers’ Quarrel – side One
.
You nasty dog! You dirty hog!
You thinks somebody loves you.
I tells you dis to let you know
I thinks myse’f above you.
. . .
Do I Love You?
.
Does I love you wid all my heart?
––I loves you wid my liver;
An’ if I had you in my mouf,
I’d spit you in de river.
. . .
She hugged Me and kissed Me
.
I see’d her in de Springtime,
I see’d her in de Fall,
I see’d her in de Cotton patch,
A cameing from de Ball.
.
She hug me, an’ she kiss me,
She wrung my han’ an’ cried.
She said I wus de sweetes’ thing
Dat ever lived or died.
.
She hug me an’ she kiss me.
Oh Heaben! De touch o’ her han’!
She said I wus de puttiest thing
In de shape o’ mortal man.
.
I told her dat I love her,
Dat my love wus bed-cord strong;
Den I axed her w’en she’d have me,
An’ she jues say “Go long!”
. . .
You have made Me weep
.
You’se made me weep,
you’se made me mourn,
you’se made me tears an’ sorrow.
So far’ you well, my pretty liddle gal,
I’se gwine away to-morrow.
. . .
Me and my Lover
.
Me an’ my Lover, we fall out.
How d’you reckon de fuss begun?
She laked licker, an’ I laked fun,
An’ dat wus de way de fuss begun.
.
Me an’ my Lover, we fall out.
W’at d’you reckon de fuss wus ’bout?
She loved bitters, an’ I loved kraut,
An’ dat wus w’at de fuss wus ’bout.
.
Me an’ my Lover git clean ‘part.
How d’you reckon dat big fuss start?
She’s got a gizzard, an’ I’se got a heart,
An’ dat’s de way dat big fuss start.
. . .
I wish I was an Apple
.
Oh:
I wish I wus an apple,
An’ my Sallie wus anudder.
What a pretty match we’d be,
Hangin’ on a tree togedder!
.
But:
If I wus an apple,
An’ my Sallie wus anudder;
We’d grow up high, close to de sky,
Whar de Niggers couldn’ git ‘er.
.
We’d grow up close to de sun
An’ smile up dar above;
Den we’d fall down ‘way in de groun’
To sleep an’ dream ’bout love.
.
And:
W’en we git through a dreamin’,
We’d bofe in Heaben wake.
No Nigger shouldn’t git my gal
W’en ‘is time come to bake.
. . .
Invited to take the Escort’s Arm
.
Miss, does you lak strawberries?
Den hang on de vine.
.
Miss, does you lak chicken?
Den have a wing dis time.
. . .
Sparking or Courting
.
I’se heaps older dan three.
I’se heaps thicker dan barks;
An’ de older I gits,
De mo’ harder I sparks.
.
I sparks fast an’ hard,
For I’se feared I mought fail.
Dough I’se gittin’ ole,
I don’t co’t lak no snail.
. . .
A clandestine Letter
.
Kind Miss,
If I sent you a letter,
By de crickets,
Through de thickets,
How’d you answer better?
.
Kind Suh,
I’d sen’ you a letter,
By de mole,
Not to be tol’;
Fer dat’s mo’ secretter.
. . .
Antebellum Marriage Proposal
(A proposal of marriage with the answer deferred)
.
He:
De ocean, it’s wide; de sea, it’s deep.
Yes, in yo’ arms I begs to sleep,
Not fer one time, not fer three;
But long as we-uns can agree.
.
She:
Please gimme time, Suh, to “reponder”;
Please gimme time to “gargalize”;
Den ‘haps I’ll tu’n to “cattlegog”,
An’ answer up ‘greeable fer a s’prise.
. . .
Courtship
(A proposal of marriage with its acceptance)
.
Kind Miss,
I’se on de stage o’ action,
Pleadin’ hard fer satisfaction,
Pleadin’ ‘fore de time-thief late;
Darfore, Ma’m, now, “cravenate”.*
.
If I brung to you a gyarment;
To be cut widout scissors,
An’ to be sewed widout thread;
How (I ax you) would you make it,
Widout de needle sewin’
An’ widout de cloth spread?
.
Kind Suh,
I’d make dat gyarment
Wid love from my heart,
Wid tears on yo’ head;
We never would part.
. . .
Presenting a Hat to Phoebe
.
Sister Phoebe,
Happy wus we,
W’en we sot under dat Juniper tree.
Take dis hat it’ll keep yo’ head warm.
Take dis kiss, it’ll do you no harm.
Sister Phoebe,
De hours, dey’re few;
But dis hat’ll say I’se thinkin’ ’bout you.
Sugar, it’s sugar; an’ salt, it’s salt;
If you don’t love me, it’s sho’ yo’ own fault.
. . .
Wooing
.
W’at is dat a wukin
At yo’ han’bill on de wall,
So’s yo’ sperit, it cain’t res’,
An’ a gemmun’s heat, it call?
.
Is you lookin’ fer sweeter berries
Growin’ on a higher bush?
An’ does my combersation suit?
If not, w’at does you wush?
. . .
When I go to marry
.
W’en I goes to marry,
I wants a gal wid money.
I wants a pretty black-eyed gal
To kiss an’ call me “Honey”.
.
Well, w’en I goes to marry,
I don’t wanter git no riches.
I wants a man ’bout four foot high,
So’s I can w’ar de britches.
. . .
Good-by, Wife!
.
I had a liddle wife,
An’ I didn’ want to kill ‘er;
So I tuck ‘er by de heels,
An’ I throwed ‘er in de river.
“Good-by, Wife! Good-by, Honey!
Hadn’t been fer you,
I’d a had a liddle money.”
.
My liddle fussy wife
Up an’ say she mus’ have scissors;
An’ druther dan to fight,
I’d a throwed ‘er in three rivers.
But she crossed dem fingers, w’en she go down,
An’ a liddle bit later
She walk out on de groun’.
. . .
My Baby
.
I’se de daddy of dis liddle black baby.
He’s his mammy’s onliest sweetes liddle Coon.
Got de look on de forehead lak his daddy,
Pretty eyes jes as big as de moon.
.
I’se de daddy of dis liddle black baby.
Yes, his mammy keep de “Sugar” rollin’ over.
She feed him wid a tin cup an’ a spoon;
An’ he kick lak a pony eatin’ clover.
. . .
My Folks and your Folks
.
If you an’ yo’ folks
Likes me an’ my folks
Lak me an’ my folks
Likes you an’ yo’ folks;
You’s never seed folks
Since folks ‘as been folks
Like you an’ yo’ folks
Lake me an’ my folks.
. . .
Fed from the Tree of Knowledge
.
I nebber starts to break my colt,
Till he’s ole enough to trabble.
I nebber digs my taters up
W’en dey’s only right to grabble.
So w’en you sees me risin’ up
To structify in meetin’,
You can know I’se climbed de Knowledge Tree
An’ done some apple eatin’.
. . .
The Tongue
.
Got a tongue dat jes run when it walk?
It cain’t talk.
Got a tongue dat can hush when it talk?
––It cain’t squawk.
. . .
Don’t tell All You know
.
Keep dis in min’, an’ all ‘ll go right;
As on yo’ way you goes;
Be shore you knows ’bout all you tells,
But don’t tell all you knows.
. . .
Thomas Washington Talley (1870 – 1952) taught chemistry and biology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He also sang with the New Fisk Jubilee Singers and conducted the Fisk choir for several seasons. But mainly, today, he is known as a seminal scholar of African-American rhymes and folksongs. Some of the rhymes he compiled dated as far back as the mid-19th-century – the final decades of slavery. In middle age Talley had begun to search out and collect rural black folk songs, many of which were disappearing with the gradual demise of the older generation. Professor Talley compiled several hundred rhymes and songs, and in 1922 published his anthology: Negro Folk Rhymes (Wise and Otherwise).

Negro Folk Rhymes is divided into sections: nursery rhymes, child’s-play call&response rhymes, dance rhymes, “wise sayings” and so forth. But it being Valentine’s Day today, we have chosen our selection from the Love, Courtship, and Marriage chapters of Talley’s volume!

. . . . .


Sexploitation, Politics, Anger, God, and Happiness: Poems by Gerald Kithinji (Kenya, 1976)

Richard Kimathi_Churches in AfricaGerald Kithinji (Kenya)

Selections from Whispers at Dawn
. . .
Magic Woman
.
I am the black magic woman
I feed from the dartboard
served by the wine drunkards
.
I am the female equivocator
I provoke the male prostitutes
by a lisp of “guinness is good for you!”
.
I am the adding machine
computing your poverty
by a controlled throw of the dart
.
I am the ‘mother-in-law’
sucking your slumberous prick
for want of a longer trip
.
I am the ever-thirsty sleuth
whose eternal furnace
consumes your holy waters
.
If in any reasonable doubt
follow that last stagger
to the edge of the moonlight
– to the last tango away from the dartboard.
. . .
Sexploitation
.
The talk took a comic turn
adding dry wood to the fire
lit by the sex debate
– or was it the women’s lib
.
Yes; I think it was that lost battle
now come from the mists of antiquity
through currents of a missionary zeal
to plague the human race
.
They were not ‘fiddlers on the roof’
nor sexperienced population exploders
but just college infuriates
that must have sexquality – or die!
.
“What men can do
that women can do
what men can do
let women do”
.
The lioness roamed the jungle
the zebras rubbed noses
and the birds on the equality twig sung:
“were I an ilk with all her ilk”
.
And the lights dimmed
leaving only the fireglow
leaving the sons of strife
in clouds of misty speculation
.
The wind carried no pollen
the flowers refused to bloom
the world stood still
in the wake of a woman’s protest
.
The world of merit
shed a light on sexpression
but the question persisted
“what if they played hard to get?”
. . .
In Praise of Work
.
The possibility is there
that I might write
with the poet’s inbuilt inspiration
what comrade time
has reason to portend
.
Of our aims
I might write
or even our dreams
.
But our destinations?
Even the Pope’s edict…
hist–
I pledge my doubt
.
Of greater moment
is our faith
in the plough.
.
Hail plough!
Hail abundance!
. . .
A Pause
.
On that hot afternoon
even the creatures of heaven
could feel the heat in hell
and paused awhile
to let it pass
.
But as for me, a wayward son
doomed to labour and toil
there was no pause, no rest
but an eternal longing
an eternal thirst
.
Had I not been sleepy
I might have witnessed
the comings and goings
of the multitudes
I might have lived!
.
Hey, birds on the twig
what became of your nests
and your thousand promises
of a thousand nestlings?
I might have witnessed!
.
Looking back on that day
I see the present through a crack
and I know I have arrived
at the edge of my sanity
at the top of the precipice
.
Will the heat now abate
and let me fondle the coolness
of the moonlit evening
and let me lick the honey
on my latest fount!
. . .
I have come to take away my Love
.
I have been thinking about you
all night long;
and re-thinking, asking myself
which is the mid-point
between now and eternity.
.
And in that one night
I lived three centuries into the past
and three others into the future
(into the ‘dim regions
whence my fathers came’
and into a void
far from my native clime)
.
And in that one night, too,
I peered deep into your heart
and saw seated there
(as on a pile of loot!)
cupid – silently beckoning…
.
Ha-ha-ha I have come
to take away my love!
and you whose faces I see
remain invisible to Wanja.
.
I tried to write in rhyme
of nights I’ve spent awake
weaning my infant love
humming a silent lullaby.
.
I took my ball-point pen
and jotted down your name
in the space of an hour an’ a half
begging the letters to come.
.
Every letter I wrote spelt love
and every pause, a prayer
that those that love
should rhyme in love.
Richard Kimathi_mixed media on canvas_The Kiss_2012The Couple_Motherly Love_by Richard Kimathi_painter from Kenya_born 1971
Politics
.
Listen to the deafening silence
of the politician
Behold the benevolence
of this native tyrant
.
Listen to the transcendental claptrap
of the lonely pauper
Endure the ordeal of change
and the quintessential shock
.
Beyond freedom and dignity
aspiration and accomplishment
and remember your kinsmen
dancing on a volcano.
. . .
My Ballot Paper
.
I have long waited
this sunny day
to chide myself
.
Should I cast for this clown
who with dripping mouth
sang his electorate his ambitions?
.
Or this home-made angel
who with wings of kites
would myrrh his disciples?
.
And then again I wonder
should the heavens rock
who will restrain the storm?
.
So I take the little ballot
and with raging words
in verse expend my anguish.
. . .
The Candidates
.
They promised us
all manner of pleasant solace
as this manifesto witnesseth;
and to show our reliance
we implored them to denounce
older forms of dishonesty
with charity appreciable by view.
.
They and each of them
and all their ilk
swore to buy our support
in gross and in detail
and so on and so forth
mutatis mutandis
per omnia saecula saeculorum!!
.
But we were lowly natives
and matched with local casuistry
and various verbal falsehoods
what code of necromancy
would misfortunes forestall!
.
Nefarious candidates
the time has come:
purge your consciences!
Soldiers in Pyjamas by Richard Kimathi_painter from Kenya_born 1971
Power
.
I hate your wife – capitalism
I hate your daughter – socialism
I also detest their suitors –
fascism, militarism, nazism
and even communism!
.
I clung, yes, clung
to that alien stupor
sapped that suave subastral quintessence
that makes us
cry…
and seldom
laugh.
.
And I woke up
rabid
as familiars quirked,
“He will bite them,
these racists.”

Not my Continent
.
Do not deride me
Do not mistake my identity
Do not kill my image
.
You ask me to drive you
to the cocktail in a Benz
You ask me to fly you to Addis
.
My friend, you’ve got me wrong
Put the cart before the horse
Want me to run before I can walk
.
If you want me you take me as I am
Not fragments of my torn mouldings
Not imitations of my constitution
.
Or else leave me alone
I have admirers enough
I have my continent to defend
.
Would you I sold my self
to the fullest coffer
Would you gnaw at my existence
.
I will not ration my inherited pride
I will not solicit your return
I will not wail your departure
.
Take your gifts away
They smack of blackmail
They smell of betrayal
.
I want nothing from you
And nothing will I take
Save this: Leave my continent!
. . .
Anger!
.
And anger
is a friend
that the oppressed
must seize –
a purgative drug
to cleanse and preserve
the knowledge
and indignation
with which they affront
agglutinated
the excesses of apartheid.
.
Come, behold the scars
that those who angered
seized, arms outstretched
their spears flaming!
.
And you who dither
de-ice your souls
with flames of anger:
and unreason
will succumb
to reason.
.
Hail, vanguard
of our freedom. Hail!
. . .
The Palm Tree
.
We had fought and won
the internecine war;
The foreigners had demarcated
their spoils on our land:
but our spirit of struggle
our thirst for freedom –
kept burning within our hearts.
.
Our vow and determination
to recapture our terre
to tender our palm tree –
this, too, kept burning
with rage and vengeance.
Our thoughts no longer hazy
Our deeds no longer wavy:
but studied and firm
our men advanced sure of foot.
.
Vengeance is ours
(and not the Lord’s!)
For we know, liberated,
even here
all manner of genius
may grow…
turning pages of transformation
from centuries of silent mutation
to an eternity of unqualified progress.
.
Where the wheels of oppression
have finally ground to a halt
There shall be found
the masses that struggle!
. . .
A Dream
.
None dare call it a dream
to be born and to die
to walk to the market
with a bag empty
and back home
with the bag full
to take cattle to the river
to take calves to the slaughter
.
None dare call it wisdom
to laugh and to cry
to mourn and to sigh
to be able to reap
what one has sown
to slaughter the ram
to feed their offspring
.
They die in the evening
they rise in the morning
they live in the day
.
Each life confirms a death
each death promises a life
and I watch these at my window
. . .
A God
.
While you are catholic
And I am protestant
We shall remain slaves
.
Let us shed christianity
And together
Cultivate the African God
.
Let us learn the creed
That says
Black is Beautiful…
And believe it.
. . .
Happiness
.
Friends
if ever you be happy
let it be
for things done
dreams come true
possibilities realised
.
Let it be
for aspirations attained
ambitions accomplished
extremities fathomed
.
Let it be
for misfortunes overcome
wrongs righted
life well spent
.
But above all else
let it be
for love bestowed
extended
assured
.
For these
dear friends
we longed
and lived
to miss.
. . .
The Dreamers
.
Let us dream
dream our dream
seated
lying here
naked
loving here
Our hearts naked
stripped bare
telling tales
dreaming our naked truth.
.
Our nakedness
loving
My ego
dreaming
Perhaps boozing
oozing with hatred
with love
dreams
with child.
.
A sore on foot
on breast
on lip
Like dream – love dream
bending, lame…
bleeding
like nose
like tick.
.
Blood
thick blood
sticky, haunting –
like ghost
like dream
like fairies
dreaming
loving
hating…
living.
. . .
Shade
.
Let’s rest here
under this shade
of ignorance
it is so cool
and so empty
there is only you
and me
and our host
.
Come, let’s quick
to the shade
lest, exposed,
we become wise
and waste ourselves
on things philosophic
psychologic, pathologic…
.
There, under the shade,
there is no literature
no law, nor art
no science of deceit
no poetry, music or life:
just ignorance and ourselves
.
Just ignorance and ourselves
just ignorance
ignorance
.
I came out here
to record nature
but found nature
had herself recorded
in greater detail
and better form:
‘Nature has done her part –
Do thou but thine!’
. . .

The above poems from Whispers at Dawn were composed while Gerald Kithinji attended university, and were published in 1976 by East African Literature Bureau (Dar es Salaam / Kampala / Nairobi). The poet’s Dedication at that time read as follows:
Dedicated to those whose imagination fired my own; whose beauties yearned for recognition; whose hearts overflowed with warmth; whose interest laid bare my secrets; whose magic still conjures my dreams.
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Gerald Kithinji grew up along the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya, about 250 kilometres from Nairobi. He speaks Kimeru (his natal Kenyan language), and has expanded his reading to include books in French and Portuguese. He has continued to write over the past several decades, but he concentrates now on collections of short stories. Recent titles (2014 and 2015) have included: Hear Me Angry God, Kiss the Handcuffs, Pastor X, Set Her Free, and Masai Mara Adventures with Olê Ntutu. He writes adult fiction as well as children’s books.
In a February 2015 interview Mr. Kithinji was asked What inspires you to get out of bed each day? And his reply: Unfinished business – and that means writing.

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Images: Richard Kimathi (born 1971, Kenya): recent works in mixed media on canvas: “Churches in Africa”, “The Kiss”, “The Couple: Motherly Love”, and “Soldiers in Pyjamas”.

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