Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems (7 page)

BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
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and you think of me, sometimes, as the most

monstrous of old men. No matter:

if I could only make you see

how you must live when you are far away from me.

If only I could see for you, if I could for you spell

the vast contours of hell!

If I could tell you how, on such a road,

where I walked once, I stumbled and fell and howled:

how you must walk the road, and not be driven

into the great wilderness, by some false dream of heaven!

I have been there, and I know. But I know, too,

that nothing I say now will get to you.

You have your journey now, and I have mine.

And all day and all night long

I have waited for a sign

which will not be given to us now.


love has no gifts to give

except the revelation that the soul can live:

on a coming day,

you will hear, from afar,

I, your lover, pray.

You will hear, then, the prayer that you cannot hear now,

and, when you hear that sobbing, boy, rejoice,

and know that love is the purpose of the human voice!

Neuilly s/Seine

July 23, 1970


I wish I had known more

than love ever knows, in time.

One imagines that time

gives the time

to quarrel,

correct, tyrannize,

and love.

Baby brother,

the light of your passage

has become the light in my own:

and I had planned it,

quite the other way around.

Enough. So much for plans.

Enough of calculations.

I will never see you

as I saw you,


never touch you or kiss you

or scold you again.

You were very patient with me

very loving

but I was sure that I would die before you

and wanted you to be able to live without me.

So much for calculations.

So much for wisdom.

So much for age.

You have humbled me, my friend,

who, now, must learn to live without you.

I will miss, forever,

your eyes, your walk,

your talk—enough

My friend, Miss Lena Horne,

and many other saints

sing you, my darling,

into the womb of eternity.

Therefore, farewell,

                    for now:

Dig you, later: alligator.



when you send the rain,

think about it, please,

a little?


not get carried away

by the sound of falling water,

the marvelous light

on the falling water.


am beneath that water.

It falls with great force

and the light


me to the light.

BALLAD (for Yoran)


Started to leave

and couldn't go

for a Yes

or for a No.

Watched the silver tracks turn black

as my lover's back.

Stood there through the night

watched the black turn white.

Started to leave, but couldn't go:

for a Yes, or for a No.

Heard the thunder,

saw his face,

lightning played around the place

where I stood, and couldn't go

for a Yes, or for a No.


The hardest thing of all

is hearing the silence fall—

or, no, to see it,

touch it,

watch silence take a form,

watch silence proudly stride

between connecting rooms,

hear silence ride

between, between,


you, and all others,




Oh, Brother, say:

I couldn't hear nobody pray.


The silence coming yonder

is far from grief

and brings relief.

Beyond time

there is no wonder

there is no crime.

they say:


just between me and you

tell me if it's true!

They say

silence brings no anguish

where only silence lives:



Beacon Press

Boston, Massachusetts


Beacon Press books

are published under the auspices of the

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

For poems from
Jimmy's Blues
: Copyright © 1983, 1985 James Baldwin

For poems from
: Copyright © 1989 David Baldwin

This collection: Copyright © 2014 The James Baldwin Estate

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

This book is printed on acid-free paper that meets the uncoated paper ANSI/NISO specifications for permanence as revised in 1992.

Text design by Gabi Anderson and Ruth Maassen

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Baldwin, James, 1924–1987

  [Poems. Selections]

  Jimmy's blues and other poems / James Baldwin ; with an introduction by Nikky Finney.

          pages cm

  ISBN 978-0-8070-8486-1 (paperback : acid-free paper)—ISBN 978-0-8070-8487-8 (ebook)

  I. Finney, Nikky. II. Title.

  PS3552.A45A6 2014



BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
12.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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