But I was never there. Never
the light of my father’s eyes, or any
well-lit brother’s (that deep-husked choir).
There was no height from which to fall.
I began here in the proverbial
bottom: undertow, base from which
one may rise but briefly, like the failing horse
knowing it must now race, must tear
out of its rusted gate, must
further tear the pleuritic lining of its lungs,
allow its tongue to loll
ugly from the side
of its mouth. Have you seen such a thing?
Its brown coat salted with sweat as it lunges
forward and lunges again, forcing its measure
not up but out, knowing its ankles could fold
under such weight, its nose opened
into another being, sucking and snorting
the only thing it takes within itself that does not judge
it, the air. The sweet, sweet air as it makes its way
around the curve that might kill it, that assuredly will
kill it. Do you see me there? Of course not.
I’m over here. Here.
In this hollow running for my low life. O Father,
for the light of a hand over my back. O Brothers,
for the gold leaf wreath that might have meant
a stroke of my neck, for that, I stretch these legs to breaking,
I wrench this belly’s hull, dark
as all alluvial things are. Lucifer’s
is a common story, a child’s bogeyman. What should frighten
you is this: Imagine what he would be had he not fallen,
had he never seen the elusive light at all, never been privy
to the cords of God’s neck, if he in fact, doubted
such things, believing only in what anguishes and writhes,
trusting nothing more than what soils his hands.
But I was never there. Never
Again. I’m not doing the writing that I should be but folks are out here collecting my words for me. It’s appreciated.
— James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis”
It touches earth, that branched diviner’s rod
the lightning, like the swift note of a swallow on the staff
of four electric wires, while everything I read
or write goes on too long. Ah, to have
a tone colloquial and stiff,
the brevity of that short syllable, God,
all synthesis in one heraldic stroke,
like Li Po or a Chinese laundry mark! Walk
these hot streets, their signs a dusty backdrop stuck
to the maundering ego. The lines that jerk
into step do not fit any mold. More than time
keeps shifting. Language never fits geography
except when the earth and summer lightning rhyme.
When I was greener, I strained with a branch
to utter every tongue, language, and life at once.
More skillful now, I’m more dissatisfied.
They never align, nature and your
own nature. Too rapid the lightning’s shorthand,
too patient the sea repeatedly tearing up paper,
too frantic the wind unravelling the same knot,
too slow the stones crawling toward language every night.
— Harmony Holiday
@carvenslissaint and @sirjoshbennett at #afterschool #thestriversrow #spokenword Photo by @Mara.castillo
— Audre Lorde, “Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between Jmaes Baldwin and Audre Lorde”
- So let me get this straight...
- Janelle hit us with that heaven-sent Electric Lady video
- Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde
JB: One of the dangers of being a Black American is being...
- “Art hurts. Art urges voyages - and it is easier to stay at home.”— Gwendolyn Brooks
Shuts a door—
Is not there—
Your arms are water.
And you are free
With a ghastly freedom.
You are the beautiful half”
Of a golden...