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OUR HISTORY THROUGH POETRY – PART II

“UNTIL THE LION LEARNS TO SPEAK, THE TALE OF THE HUNT WILL ALWAYS GLORFY THE HUNTER.”
[AFRICAN PROVERB]

“DEFENSE” – By Elma Stuckley (1907-1988)
De fence they keep on talking ’bout must gonna’ be powerful strong.
Done taken all them soldier boys, must gonna’ be powerful long.
Done ask us all to help with it and I can’t figger why
Unless that it’s gonna’ be a fence that’s mighty high.
De forest we been savin’ will be split up for de rails.
We got to make it strong they say and hammer it with nails.
They say de enemy is awful, say he likely to commence
For to messin’ with the country if he break in through de fence
If he ever charge at me just like he ain’t got no sense,
I ain’t gonna’ stant there like er’ fool, one of us gonna’ jump de fence.
“WHEN I KNOW THE POWER OF MY HAND”
By Lance Jeffers (1919-1985)
I do not know the power of my hand.  I do not know the power of my black hand.
I sit slumped in the conviction that I am powerless,
     tolerate ceilings that make me bend.
My godly mind stoops, my ambition is crippled; I do not know the power of my hand.
I see my children stunted, my young men slaughtered,
I do not know the might power of my hand.
I see the power over my life and death in another man’s hands, and sometimes
I shake my woolly head and wonder:
      LORD have mercy!  What would it be like… to be free?
But when I know the mighty power of my black hand
I will snatch freedom from the tyrant’s mouth,
Know the first taste of freedom on my eager tongue,
Sing the miracle of freedom with all the force of my lungs,
Christen my black land with exuberant creatins,
Stand independent in the hall of nations,
Root submission and dependence from the soil of my soul, and
Pitch the monument of slavery from my back, when
I KNOW THE MIGHTY POWER OF MY HAND!
“WHEN I THINK ABOUT MYSELF” – By Maya Angelou
When I think about myself, I almost laugh myself to death,
My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked, a song that’s spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.
Sixty years in these folks’ world; The child I works for calls me girl
I say “Yes ma’am” for working’s sake.  Too proud to bend, too poor to break,
I laugh until my stomach ache, when I think about myself.
My folks can make me split my side, I laughed so hard I nearly died,
The tales they tell, sound just like lying, they grow the fruit, but they eat the rind,
I laugh until I st art to crying, when I think about my folks.
“CUSTOMS & CULTURE? – By Ted Joans (1928-2003)
perhaps what beans & potatoes means to me is what
cornflakes and yogurt mean to you
maybe the machines tell your insides something similar
to what the drums inspire in me
do you really believe cold weather is invigorating as the sunshine
is fine everyday everyway for me all the time
if you really think your way is right and fine
then why do you pass laws against mine?
“GOD’S TROMBONE” – By Sarah Webster Fabio (1928-1979)
Yesterday, I heard a blind man sound a new note in a hot blast on an old theme–
That of GOD’s Trombone which you defined so well in idiom, form, texture, harmony.
“Lift every voice and sing/till earth and heaven ring,” you urged on the strength of
Spirit that comes with voices raised in unison and affirmation of the GOD-in-man.
A thing of beauty your people gave to the world, those lost souls who were newly
Awakening to the glory and the mystique of their ways and to the
Prismatic splendor of their blues-tinged days.

“BLACK PEOPLE: THIS IS OUR DESTINY” – By Amiri Baraka
The road runs straight with no turning, the circle runs complete as it is in the
storm of peace, the all embraced embracing in the circle complete turning road
straight like a burning straight with the circle complete as in a peaceful storm,
the elements, the niggers’ voices harmonized with creation on a peak in the
Holy Black man’s eyes that we rise, whose race is only direction up, where we go to
meet the realization of makers knowing who we are and the war in our hearts,
but the purity of the Holy world that we long for, knowing how to live, and what life is,
and who GOD is, and the many revolutions we must spin through in our seven
adventures in the endlessness of all existing feeling, all existing forms of life, the gases,
the plants, the ghost minerals, the spirits, the souls, the light in the stillness,
where the storm, the glow, the nothing in GOD is complete except there is nothing to be
incomplete, the pulse and change of rhythm a playing re-understood now by one of the
1st race, the primitives of the first men who evolve again to civilize the world.

“IN THE INNER CITY” – By Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
in the inner city or like we call it – home
we think a lot about uptown and the silent nights
and the houses straight as dead men and the pastel lights
and we hang on to our no place happy to be alive
and in the inner city or like we call it – home

“LAST NOTE TO MY GIRLS” – By Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
my girls, my girls, my almost me, mellowed in a brown bag
held tight and straining at the top like a good lunch
until the bag turned weak and wet and burst in our honeymoon rooms.
we wiped the mess and dressed you in our name and here you are
my girls, my girls, forty quick fingers reaching for the door.
i command you to be good runners to go with grace
go well in the dark and make for higher ground
my dearest girls, my girls, my more than me.

“MALCOLM X – AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY” – By Larry Neal (1937-1981)
I am the Seventh Son of the son who was also the Seventh.
I have drunk deep of the waters of my ancestors,
Have traveled the soul’s journey toward cosmic harmony – the Seventh Son.
Have walked slick avenues and seen grown men, fall, to die,
in a blue doom of death and ancestral agony;
Have seen old men glide, shadowless, feet barely touching the pavements.
I sprang out of Midwestern plains the break Michigan landscape,
The black blues of Kansas City, these kiss-me-nights;
Out of the bleak Michigan landscape wearing the slave name Malcolm Little.
Saw a brief vision in Lansing when I was seven,
And in my momma’s womb heard the beast of death;
A landscape on which white robed figures ride, and my
Garvey father silhouetted against the night-fire,
Gun in hand, form outlined against a panorama of violence.
Out of the Midwestern bleakness, I sprang, pushed eastward, past shack on
Country nigger shack, across the wilderness of North America.
I Hustler.  I Pimp.  I unfilfilled black man bursting with destiny.
New York City Slim called me Big Red, and there was no escape,
       colse nights of the smell of death.
Pimp.  Hustler.  The day fills these rooms.  I’m talking about New York, Harlem.
Talking about neon madness. Talking about ghetto eyes and nights;
Talking about death protruding across the room; Talking about Small’s Paradise.
Talking about cigarette butts, and rooms smelly with white sex-flesh,
And dank sheets, and being on the run.
Talking about cocaine illusions.  Talking about selling and stealing.
Talking about these New York cops who smell of blood and money.
I am Big Red, Tiger, Vicious, Big Red, Bad Nigger, will kill.
But there is rhythm here – it’s own special substance:
I hear Billie sing, no Good Man, and dig Prez, wearing the Zoot suit of life,
The Porkpie hat tilted at the correct angle;
Through the Harlem smoke of beer and whiskey,
I understand the mystery of the Signifying Monkey;
In a blue haze of inspiration I reach for the totality of being.
I am at the center of a swirl of events.  War and death. Rhythm.
Hot women.  I think life in a commodity bargained for across the bar in Small’s.
I perceive the ecohoes of Bird and there is a gnawing the maw of my emotions.
And then there is jail.  America is the world’s greatest jailer,
And we are all in jails – Holy spirits contained like magnificient birds of wonder.
I now understand my father urged on by the ghost of Garvey, and
I see a small brown man standing in a corner.
The cell.  Cold.  Dank.  The light around him vibrates.  (Am I crazy?)
But to understand is to submit to a more perfect will, a more perfect order.
To understand is to surrender the imperfect self for a more perfect self.
ALLAH formed man, I follow and shake within the very depty of my
Most interesting being; And I bear witness to the Message of ALLAH
And I bear witness; ALL PRAISE IS DUE ALLAH.
Spring 1967

“BLACK ETHICS” – By Sterling D. Plumpp

not a new thing but an excavated gem
lost in centuries of self-separations.
will make a man strong, ready to die for his woman/child/country/
which is obscured in doubt.
the priceless dynamo called human love
that makes a man, a man,
and moves him to self-pride.

“HALF BLACK, HALF BLACKER” – By Sterling D. Plumpp
i went down to malcolmland, me come back a man.
me returned with blackness drippin’ from my every breath.
i went down to malcolmland unprepared, but him gave me a grass sack
him told me to stuff-in all the blackness i could him told me to run as fas as me could
back to blackpeople, back to blackpeople, so me wouldn’t lose all my goodies.
i went down to malcolmland, me come back a man.
me left my knees & lifted my eyes eastward & me ran, me ran….
malcolm say god black love black man black heaven black heaven here me made black
but me hadta’ run back thru fire with a sack of blackness on my shoulders.
me think i all black, sometimes me think i half black, others cause me
may lose some blackness tryin’ to bring it to blackpeople.
i go down to malcolmland – me come back a man.
me black when me think about malcolm, medgar, martin,
fred, bobbies, mark, lumumba….
me lose some blackness when me don’t do nothin’
ain’t me black?  ain’t me black?
when i am in malcolmland me know me be blacker….

“A BEGINNING FOR NEW BEGINNINGS” – By Angela Jackson
And some where distantly there is an answer
as surely as this breath half hangs befo’ my face
And some where there is a move meant.  As certain as the wind arrives
and departs from me.  And always.
There is the struggling to be and constantly our voices rise.
In silent straining to be free…
And some where there is an answer.  A How.  That I can feel and be felt in.
And live within a Reason and a Way.  And some time there is a Morning.
The rise of an Other Day. (But the Fight is in the wading.  Waiting out this night.
The Fight is in the living thru til mornings rise closed and secure in u.)  But this time.
Our eyes cannot see.  And the night lends no helping hand.
The waters of this land are freezing.  Still.  I.  And We.  Struggle.  And we float.
Children.  Together (U. Me. She. And Us. And Him.)
Together.  Children.  We learn How to swim.

“A POEM FOR LANGSTON HUGHES” – By Lenard D. Moore
You Langston, you black man who is waiting for our tomorrows
not to be underground and lost to oblivion,
Whose Afrikan eyes have sealed like a vault, whose metaphors live on,
Whose poems tremble the world like a great earthquake,
Whose spirit lift heads, young and old, whose books will always be read…
You who were not afraid to seek revolution/ a revolution of liberation —
You were not afraid to retrace the Nile, to show how stable your memory,
How untimid your voice for your people, how brilliant you were.
You Langston, you black man who is waiting for our tomorrows
not to be underground and lost to oblivion,
Whose sentient words have brought salvation, have led brothers and sisters
To cast words upon page after page….
Creating piercing poems and treasure their heritage.
Oh, you black man insisted on electrifying the world
When others sought to cage you like a bird.
Always it is the rhythm of your words, jazz rhythm,
Stroking freedom in ears, burning in minds,
So Deep.  So Deep.

“MILLION MAN MARCH POEM” – By Maya Angelou
The night has been long, the wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark, and the walls have been steep.
Under a dead blue sky on a d istant beach,
I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach.
Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound, you couldn’t een call my name.
You were helpless and so was I,
But unfortunately throughout history you’ve worn a badge of shame.
I say, the night has been long, the wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark and the walls have been steep.
But today, voices of old spirit sound, speak to us in words profound,
Across the years, across the centuries, across the oceans, and across the seas.
They say, draw near to one oanother, Save Your Race.
You have been paid for in a distant place,
The old ones remind us that slavery’s chains
Have paid for our freedom again and again.
The night has been long, the pit has been deep,
The night has been dark, and the walls have been steep.
The hells we have lived through and live through still,
Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will.  The night has been long.
This morning I look through your anguish right down to your soul.
I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole.
I look through the posture and past your disguise,
And see your love for family in your big brown eyes.
I say, Clap Your Hands, and let’s come together in this meeting ground,
I say, Clap Your Hands, and let’s deal with each other with love,
I say, Clap Your Hands, and let us get from the low road of indifference,
Clap Hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls.
Clap Hands, let’s leave the preening and stop impostering our history.
Clap Hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap Hands, let us invite joy in our conversation,
Courtesy in our bedrooms, Gentleness into our kitchens, Care into our nursery.
The ancestosrs remind us, despite the history of pain
WE ARE A GOING-ON PEOPLE WHO WILL RISE AGAIN.
AND STILL WE RISE.

SOURCES:
Website: http://www.poemhunter.com
Book: “Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African-American Poetry”
Edited by Jerry W. Ward

Natalie R. Fitten

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