Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems (5 page)

BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
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merry-making camel drivers

(complete with camels;

camels complete with loot)


before, and around you

and behind.

No wonder you went blind.

Like man, I can dig it.

Been there myself: you know:

it sometime happen so.

And the stink make you think

because you can't get away

you are surrounded

by the think of your stink,


And not just in the camels

and the drivers

and not just in the hovels

and the rivers

and not just in the sewers

where you live

and not just in the shit

beneath your nose

and not just in the dream

of getting home

and not just in the terrifying hand

which holds you tight,

forever to the land.

On such a night,

oh, yes,

one might lose sight,

fall down beneath the camels,

and see the light.

Been there myself: face down

in the mud

which rises, rises, challenging

one's mortal blood,

which courses, races, faithless,


which, married with the mud,

will dry at noon



changes things.

It do.

If I can get up off this slime,

if I ain't trampled,

I will put off my former ways

I will deny my days

I will be pardoned

and I will rise

out of the camel piss

which stings my eyes

into a revelation

concerning this doomed nation.

From which I am, henceforth,

divorced forever!

Set me upon my feet,

my Lord,

I am delivered

out of the jaws of hell.

My journey splits my skull,

and, as I rise, I fall.

Get out of town.

This ain't no place to be alone.

Get past the merchants, and the shawls,

the everlasting incense: stroke your balls,

be grateful you still have them;

touch your prick

in a storm of wondering abnegation:

it will be needed no longer,

the light being so much stronger.

Get out of town

Get out of town

Get out of town

And don't let nobody

turn you around.

Nobody will: for they see, too,

how the hand of the Lord has been laid on you.

    Ride on!

Let the drivers stare

and the camel's farts define the air.

    Ride on!

Don't be deterred, man,

for the crown ain't given to the also-ran.

Oh, Saul,

how does it feel to be Paul?

Sometimes I wonder about that night.

One does not always walk in light.

My light is darkness

and in my darkness moves, forever,

the dream or the hope or the fear of sight.

Ride on!

This hand, sometimes, at the midnight hour,

yearning for land, strokes a growing power,

true believer!

Will he come again?

When will my Lord send my roots rain?

Will he hear my prayer?

Oh, man, don't fight it

Will he clothe my grief?

Man, talk about it

That night, that light

Baby, now you coming.

I will be uncovered, on that morning,

And I'll be there.

No tongue can stammer

nor hammer ring

no leaf bear witness

to how bright is the light

of the unchained night

which delivered


to Paul.

A lady like landscapes (for Simone Signoret)

A lady like landscapes,

wearing time like an amusing shawl

thrown over her shoulders

by a friend at the bazaar:

Every once in a while she turns in it

just like a little girl,

this way and that way:


Ça n'était pas donné bien sûr

mais c'est quand même beau, non?

Oui, Oui

Et toi aussi

Ou plutôt belle

since you are a lady.

It is impossible to tell

how beautiful, how real, unanswerable,

becomes your landscape as you move in it,

how beautiful the shawl.

Guilt, Desire and Love

At the dark street corner

where Guilt and Desire

are attempting to stare

each other down

(presently, one of them

will light a cigarette

and glance in the direction

of the abandoned warehouse)

Love came slouching along,

an exploded silence

standing a little apart

but visible anyway

in the yellow, silent, steaming light,

while Guilt and Desire wrangled,

trying not to be overheard

by this trespasser.

Each time Desire looked towards Love,

hoping to find a witness,

Guilt shouted louder

and shook them hips

and the fire of the cigarette

threatened to burn the warehouse down.

Desire actually started across the street,

time after time,

to hear what Love might have to say,

but Guilt flagged down a truckload

of other people

and knelt down in the middle of the street

and, while the truckload of other people

looked away, and swore that they

didn't see nothing

and couldn't testify nohow,

and Love moved out of sight,

Guilt accomplished upon the standing body

of Desire

the momentary, inflammatory soothing

which seals their union

(for ever?)

and creates a mighty traffic problem.

Death is easy (for Jefe)


Death is easy.

One is compelled to understand

that moment

which, anyway, occurs

over and over and over.


sitting here now,

with my boy with a toothache

in the bed yonder,

asleep, I hope,

and me, awake,

so far away,

cursing the toothache,

cursing myself,

cursing the fence

of pain.


Pain is not easy;

reduces one to


which may or may not

be real,

but which are real


to make one sleep,

or wake,

or decide

that death is easy.


It is dreadful to be

so violently dispersed.

To dare hope for nothing,

and yet dare to hope.

To know that hoping

and not hoping

are both criminal endeavours,

and, yet, to play one's cards.



I could tell you

anything about myself:

if I knew something


if I could ride,


the storm of the unknown


well, then, I could prevent

the panic of toothaches.

If I knew


if I could recover


well, then,

I could kiss the toothache


and be with my lover,

who doesn't, after all,

like toothaches.


Death is easy



love dies.

Anguish is the no-man's-land

focused in the eyes.

Mirrors (for David)


Although you know

what's best for me,

I cannot act on what you see.

I wish I could:

I really would,

            and joyfully,

act out my salvation

with your imagination.


Although I may not see your heart,

or fearful well-springs of your art,

I know enough to stare

down danger, anywhere.

I know enough to tell

you to go to hell

and when I think you're wrong

I will not go along.

I have a right to tremble

when you begin to crumble.

Your life is my life, too,

and nothing you can do

will make you something other

than my mule-headed brother.

A Lover's Question

My country,

'tis of thee

I sing.

You, enemy of all tribes,

known, unknown, past,

present, or,

perhaps, above all,

to come:

I sing:

my dear,

             my darling,


(Columbia, the gem of

the ocean!)

or, as I, a street nigger,

would put it—:

(Okay. I'm

baby, till I get bigger!)

You are my heart.


have you allowed yourself

to become so


do not ask you why

you have spurned,

despised my love

as something beneath you.

We all have our ways and


but my love has been as constant

as the rays

coming from the earth

or the sun,

which you have used to obliterate


and, now, according to your purpose,

all mankind,

from the nigger, to you,

and to your children's children.

I have endured your fire

and your whip,

your rope,

and the panic from your hip,

in many ways, false lover,

yet, my love:

you do not know

how desperately I hoped

that you would grow

not so much to love me

as to know

that what you do to me

you do to you.

No man can have a harlot

for a lover

nor stay in bed forever

with a lie.

He must rise up

and face the morning sky

and himself, in the mirror

of his lover's eye.

You do not love me.

I see that.

You do not see me:

I am your black cat.

You forget

that I remember an Egypt

where I was worshipped

where I was loved

No one has ever worshipped you,

nor ever can: you think that love

is a territorial matter,

and racial,

oh, yes,

where I was worshipped

and you were hurling stones,

stones which you have hurled at me,

to kill me,

and, now,

you hurl at the earth,

our mother,

the toys which slaughtered

Cain's brother.

What panic makes you

want to die?

How can you fail to look

into your lover's eye?

Your black dancer

holds the answer:

your only hope

beyond the rope.

Of rope you fashioned,


enough hangs from

your hanging tree

to carry you

where you sent me.

And, then, false lover,

you will know

what love has managed

here below.

Inventory/On Being 52

My progress report

concerning my journey to the palace of wisdom

is discouraging.

I lack certain indispensable aptitudes.

Furthermore, it appears

that I packed the wrong things.

I thought I packed what was necessary,

or what little I had:

but there is always something one overlooks,

something one was not told,

or did not hear.


some time ago,

I seem to have made an error in judgment,

turned this way, instead of that,

and, now, I cannot radio my position.

(I am not sure that my radio is working.

No voice has answered me for a long time now.)

How long?

I do not know.

It may have been

that day, in Norman's Gardens,

up-town, somewhere,

when I did not hear

someone trying to say: I love you.

I packed for the journey in great haste.

I have never had any time to spare.

I left behind me

all that I could not carry.

I seem to remember, now,

a green bauble, a worthless stone,

slimy with the rain.

My mother said that I should take it with me,

but I left it behind.

(The world is full of green stones, I said.)


that I should think of it now.

I never saw another one like it —:

now, that I think of it.

There was a red piece of altar-cloth,

which had belonged to my father,

but I was much too old for it,

and I left it behind.

There was a little brown ball,

belonging to a neighbor's little boy.

I still remember his face,

brown, like the ball, and shining like the sun,

the day he threw it to me

and I caught it

and turned my back, and dropped it,

and left it behind.

I was on my way.

Drums and trumpets called me.

My universe was thunder.

My eye was fixed

on the far place of the palace.

But, sometimes, my attention was distracted

by this one, or that one,

by a river, by the cry of a child,

the sound of chains,

of howling. Sometimes

the wings of great birds

flailed my nostrils,

veiled my face, sometimes,

from high places, rocks fell on me,

sometimes, I was distracted by my blood,

rushing over my palm,

fouling the lightning of my robe.

My father's son

does not easily surrender.

My mother's son

BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
8.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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