Thursday, May 28, 2009

for etheridge knight

for etheridge knight
& what do i do. i boil my tears in a twisted spoon
& dance like an angel on the point of a needle.
i sit counting syllables like midas gold…
from “violent space.”
by showing us the terrible toll that prison
takes & the harsh lurid lessons that prison
taught, yr poems gave us a window to yr
soul. & there were bars on that window;
common steel bars that contained but
could not obscure the beast pacing in its
cage, the deep, dangerous soft & low
growl, the thunderous high energy roar &
bared teeth that announced the freefloating
rage spawned by helplessness,
hopelessness & yes, intense immobilizing
fear. yr poetic lines, recurring memories
& flashbacks artfully crafted into words
& figures by a tendency toward impulse
violence -- against severely restricted
self-expression, against passive compliance
to oppression. yr syntax carried the
force of physical abuse; yr imagery, stark
like naked inmates stood up against their
cell doors, provoked a kind of surprise, a
recognition of having been tricked into
glimpsing yr vulnerability. u weren’t such
a hardass. what kind of gangsta could put
into words the angst & profound despair
for a lobotomized inmate or the way one
sadly, helplessly dies a little death each
time his woman leaves his bed to walk
the streets & work the johns or the fuck-
everything-&-run in nondirectional fear
when that same woman or any woman
leaves him for good? u gave me my many
there-but-for-the-grace-of-god moments
in poems that when cut did surely bleed
& i identified like most black men i know
on either side of prison bars. what kind of
gangsta? a black postmodern antihero
who flew over the prison walls of his

©Joseph McNair; 2009

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