Wednesday, May 27, 2009

for sterling brown

for sterling a. brown

poet, pedant & bluesman, yr veritable
verse stands tall, defiant -- its head
unbowed, meeting the gaze of its
divided audience with both eyes; its
hamlike hands balled into fists
rebuking, repudiating superficial
depictions of black humanity jailed,
held without bail, double-shackled &
guard-shadowed, in the myopic
awareness of white readership or it fat
butt sits, swiveling around on its
stool, swaying from side to side,
hambone slapping its thighs,
whooping & shouting recapitulatory
oh yeahs behind a funky expository
feel; high balling like a runaway train
intent, hell bent on collision with the
strawmen & inflated heroic personas
tied up in the ropey substance of
fanciful things black readers hope &
yearn for, strewn across its tracks.

pedant, poet & bluesman, where
dunbar exposed a vital african pulse
in dialect, in the regionreek of down
home speech, u found the same in a
blue dialectic, in the exchange of
tonic, dominant & subdominant
phrasings from little river settlements,
black bottom cornrows, lumber
camps, chain gangs & big city
tenements advocating, celebrating the
proposition of dignity, humanism &
worth against a racist antithetical
counter. u drew text & aesthetic
context from the blues, folk tales &
work songs, shaping them to poetic
purpose; prosodically professing in
their rhythms, stresses & intonations a
toughness of spirit -- a way out of no
way – that might expel the bilious
yellow water of oppression from the
blood & uproot those feet still set in
the sticky mudbanks of bigotry.

bluesman, pedant & poet, tho’ college
campus born & a scion of academia, u
opened wide yr nostrils, breathed in
the sweet scent of human sweat, of
musty bodies moving & lusty spirits
touching in juke joints & churches, in
bedrooms, on back porches & picnic
grounds; breathed in the eroticism &
tensions of body, soul & spirit, the
unforgettable stench of lynchings: the
crucified, dead & buried. u held yr
breath & descended into slim greer’s
hell & saw all that was doing, then
rose again & soared, exhaled in
rhythmic puffs of breath, in robust
speechsinging, a poetic voice, obscure
but mighty, that rode the blues like a
cc rider, that placed desire ahead of
reality’s stifling claims & kindled like
raging pentacostal fire a spirit of
revolt & longing for liberation.

©Joseph McNair; 2009

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