When Black People Are (audio only)

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

More by A. B. Spellman

After Vallejo

i will die in havana in a hurricane
it will be morning, i'll be facing southwest
away from the gulf, away from the storm 
away from home, looking to the virid hills 
of matanzas where the orisha rise, lifted 
by congueros in masks of iron, bongoseros 
in masks of water, timbaleros in masks of fire
by all the clave that binds the rhythms of this world

i'll be writing when i go, revising another 
hopeful survey of my life. i will die of nothing
that i did but of all that i did not do
i promised myself a better self
than i could make & i will not forgive

you will be there, complaining
that i never saved you, that i left you
where you live, stranded
in your own green dream 

when you come for me come singing
no dirge, but scat my eulogy in bebop 
code. sing that i died among gods 
but lived with no god & did not suffer
for it. find one true poem that i made
& sing it to my shade as it fades 
into the wind. sing it presto, in 4/4 time 
in the universal ghetto key of b flat

i will die in havana in rhythm. tumbao
montuno, guaguanco, dense strata
of rhythm pulsing me away
                                          & the mother of waters
will say to the saint of crossroads
well, damn. he danced his way out after all

from Things I Don’t Miss From My Youth

3. Not Knowing Better

florene barco moved
to philadelphia &
on a visit home told
us she went
to school with
white kids

it was a lunar image

everything shouted
inferior
to us
the patterns
we walked. the ease
with which they
commanded. that
we could not live

by the river
word of lynching
farther south & of course
the signs. i
thought it all to be
as much of nature
as the night sky
the birds of the air

the notion of place
meant not where
you stood but how
you talked
to a white man

place was
the wet brown earth
your knees
sank down in

& philadelphia
was the crescent
moon