Wednesday, June 10, 2009

for sarah webster fabio (16)

that’s all she wrote
for sarah webster fabio

sweet songs, you said, were gonna come again,
my man/and didn't they? i mean they jetted in on
a ray of radiance like the sun/
to shine on those in our midst and/
the still unborn in this hour of our great need.
sarah webster fabio

in yr truncated, telegraphic wordflow, in the subtle blending of
western & nonwestern metaphor; in the irregular rhythms of
polyphonic speech, u probed/pondered the silent hurt of an
oracular people who have used poem & prophesy for thousands
of years, sounded out & puzzled over the anguished outcries of
black poetic feet protesting their forcefit into narrow confines,
into tight, crippling shoes imposed by those relatively new to the
form – & said, enough!

i sat on the floor in the privacy of yr california modern eichler
home, under the flat roof, contained by the vertical siding, &
the spartan facades with geometric lines, among the objets d’
percussion that surrounded us like bodyguards, the lilolo,
shekere, axatses & kayamba, the kpanlogo, sogo, kidi, bata &
dundun, drinking u in; drinking u up, a chela sitting at yr high
yellow feet, hoping to find that black thing u talked about; that
mysterious black aesthetic.

o intrepid magical teacher, who taught huey p. newton & bobby
seale, who touched them both, turned their lifewaters into
summer wine, their anger & rage into the euphony that
inseminated merritt college, womb & epicenter of the california
black arts movement, who midwifed the breached twin births of
black studies & the black panther party.

who taught me & showed me that the poem is not alien to
struggle, that a poem can in fact be a personal instrument of
insurrection, a bludgeon that when stripped of its subtlety,
linguistic complexity or transcendent paradox & epiphany can
beat down bourgeois structuration; that the black poet can &
must use the didactic & imperative voice from time to time to
propagandize, harangue & signify until our people are free; to
stand rhetorically for something, something boldly black.

yr verse, musical & authentic, stands as thought/expression
freed from the technologies of literacy; yr images clear, stand
as totems & fetishes of restructured human consciousness. yr
line breaks are political acts; yr enjambments mark the strong
emotional pulse/presence behind yr words, the contracting
current pushing yr poems to their relevatory ends.

©Joseph McNair; 2009


  1. You seem to have a personal connection to this poet.Did she really teach Bobby Seale and Huey Newton? Wow. I really like this poem

  2. Professor Fabio was one the unsung heroines of the black arts movement. I miss her