, , , , , ,

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

— James Baldwin

Hello, poets! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying this new year thus far.

As many of you must know, February is commemorated as Black History Month. So, today, we will be celebrating some amazing African American poets, in particular, and seeking inspiration from them.

First, we have an excerpt from Jamaal May’s long poem, A Brief History of Hostility:

Outside sheets are pulling
this way and that.

Fields are smoke,
smoke is air.

We wait for fingers to be bent
knuckle to knuckle,

the porch overrun
with rope and shotgun

but the hounds don’t show.
We beat the drum and sing

like there’s nothing outside
but rust-colored clay and fields

of wild flowers growing
farther than we can walk.

Torches may come like fox paws
to steal away what we plant,

but with our bodies bound
by the skin, my arc to his curve,

we are stalks that will bend
and bend and bend…

fire for heat
fire for light
fire for casting figures on a dungeon wall

fire for teaching shadows to writhe
fire for keeping beasts at bay
fire to give them back to the earth

fire for the siege
fire to singe
fire to roast
fire to fuse rubber soles to collapsed crossbeams
fire for Gehenna

fire for Dante
fire for Fallujah
fire for readied aim

fire in the forge that folds steel like a flag
fire to curl worms like cigarette ash
fire to give them back to the earth

fire for ancient reasons: to call down rain
fire to catch it and turn it into steam
fire for churches
fire for a stockpile of books
fire for a bible-black cloak tied to a stake

fire for smoke signals
fire to shape gun muzzle and magazine
fire to leap from the gut of a furnace
fire for Hephaestus
fire for pyres’ sake
fire licking the toes of a quiet brown man
fire for his home
fire for her flag
fire for this sand, to coax it into glass

fire to cure mirrors
fire to cure leeches
Fire to compose a nocturne of cinders

fire for the trash cans illuminating streets
fire for fuel
fire for fields
fire for the field hand’s fourth death

fire to make a cross visible for several yards
fire from the dragon’s mouth
fire for smoking out tangos
fire to stoke like rage and fill the sky with human remains
fire to give them back to the earth
fire to make twine fall from bound wrists
fire to mark them all and bubble black
any flesh it touches as it frees…
(You can read the entire poem here)

What did you think of that chant, that reverberating sound of fire and burning in his words? I am in awe of this language that cracks open and pulls out all that needs to be said and heard.

I have never been a great fan of spoken word, but this poem/performance does something to me emotionally. The way Christopher Michael embodies the Birmingham church that was bombed, leading to the death of four girls, makes you feel the centuries of hurt and pain and resilience and power.

Here is Audre Lorde’s, A Woman Speaks:

Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.

I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
my sisters
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did

I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
I am
and not white.

Also, read Gwendolyn Brooks’ Primer For Blacks, Langston Hughes’ call of/for Freedom, and Maya Angelou’s Harlem Hopscotch.

Welcome to dVerse Poetics. This is Anmol (alias HA), and today, I am prompting you all to write a verse, short or long, free verse or form, taking inspiration from these poets and their poems. You can pick a line or a theme and find your own voice, or you can elaborate and expand on the issues addressed in these powerfully evocative verses. After you have written and posted your poem, do not forget to link it in the widget down below. Also, visit others’ posts and share your comments with them. You can also use tags like dverse and deversepoetics in your post for easy reach.

Happy Writing!