17 February 2020

19 poems by black poets, a Poéfrika list


by Dennis Scott

That August the birds kept away from the village, afraid:
people were hungry.
The phoenix hid at the sun’s center and stared down
at the Banker’s house,
which was plump and factual, like zero.

by Pamela Mordecai

Shit in my mouth. He makes my woman put
her bottom in my face and push her doo-
doo in between my lips. When she stops he
says, "More! You black bitch, more! Shove it out till
it bung a clog inside his throat or I
will strip your back until it makes
a bleeding pair with his."

by Yusef Komunyakaa

The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreak she burns like a piece of paper.
She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
at dusk.

by Mzwandile Matiwana

I say:
"every drop of my ink will curse your balls"
And my children of my children
will know peace to mix not with your
progeny

by Omotara James

When they send the robot to replace me, do not be gentle
with it. Place these chords where its heart chakra should be.
Do not speak to it of a fountain— tell it, in the middle of
its life, there will be a flower: a blooming petalled trauma.

by Derek Walcott

Merely to name them is the prose
Of diarists, to make you a name
For readers who like travellers praise
Their beds and beaches as the same;
But islands can only exist
If we have loved in them.

by Jamaal May

In the beginning
there was the war.

The war said let there be war
and there was war.

The war said let there be peace
and there was war.

by June Jordan

A few years back and they told me Black
means a hole where other folks
got brain/it was like the cells in the heads
of Black children was out to every hour on the hour naps
Scientists called the phenomenon the Notorious
Jensen Lapse, remember?

by Warsan Shire

Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women; kitchen of lust,
bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy.
Sometimes the men - they come with keys,
and sometimes, the men - they come with hammers.

by Tyehimba Jess

My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carved me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.

by Rethabile Masilo

Tonight, I go to bed
with images of Maria Conçepcion in my head,
and Walcott beckoning from the edge of the sea
with honey dripping from the tips of his fingers.

by Kwame Dawes

I learned a sports car, red, muscular open roads,
a fit body, a smile, are reliable as a visa,
a path to understand the tears of a woman,
as I understood menstruation or perms:
their business is mostly inexplicable, crazy, and
nothing to do with me. I learned to be able
to say, "You did not come? Not sure why—
I did. Try harder, next time."

by Geoffrey Philp

Years later, my father would try
to explain, why after shoveling dirt
for three hours in the vault of a neighbor’s
son, he’d abandoned me in an empty grave.
And no matter how much I wailed,
"Pa, the duppies are coming after me,"
he calmly chiseled the boy’s name...

by Kamau Brathwaite

on the first day
of yr death it is quiet it is dormant like a doormat
no one-foot touch its welcome. its dust on the floor
is not disturb nor are the sleeping spirits of this house

by Chris Abani

It’s like flying in your dreams, she said. You empty
Yourself out and just lift off. Soar. It’s like that.

by Ladan Osman

Tonight is a drunk man,
his dirty shirt.

There is no couple chatting by the recycling bins,
offering to help me unload my plastics.

by January Gill O'Neil

Make peace with what cannot be seen
and what you do not know.
Try not to enter the pond scum,
the algae that swirls
in dark, empty rooms called water.

by Nikki Giovanni

I came to the crowd seeking friends
I came to the crowd seeking love
I came to the crowd for understanding

I found you.

by Margaret Walker

I want to write
I want to write the songs of my people.
I want to hear them singing melodies in the dark.
I want to catch the last floating strains from their sob-torn
throats.



Warsan Shire




16 February 2020

Skull of ochre, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

The day when from this earth we raise
a skull, pull it out with wheel and axle
and wood pulley, will be soon.
We'll know no one is coming,
the way they knew but ploughed on;
perhaps this pain of searching
shall forgive us. Such a day
could use mercy from the marrow
of our lineage. The trees of our nation
could un-die with shock and we, thick
with the cancer of freedom,
could feel at last the flow of worth
flood our arteries.

Because the mood of the lord rises
and falls like a wild sea heaving
its chest. Thunder is everywhere on
the one who walks barefoot
while the city closes in on her.
Whose child should she not be—
a linnet sings The song of nature
in a chorus of redemptionI grab
my belongings and head home,
where the world is, now covered
with cold, charred snowflakes.
Our distance chokes on buildings
along whose façades streetlamps
worship the accumulating dark.



14 February 2020

Frederick Douglass, a poem by Robert Hayden

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

Listen to the poem: Shawntay A. Henry reads "Frederick Douglass"



Robert Hayden

12 February 2020

The old man and the tea, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

Every day when I greet age at my door,
and it drags itself behind me,
its breath of tobacco penetrates my curtain
cloths and the seats along the curve of my mind,
and I feel old again, as on the street outside
tree leaves turn in for the night.

I brew tea to rinse my teeth
like a river moving slush from one country
to another
and to the ocean. Then I wash the street
off my feet with salving water
after a dinner I usually fix days before
and stash in boxes under my bed,
like one who sleeps on sustenance.

Till night wakes me even as I begin to fall asleep,
noises from the street of music commanding youths
to drink and fight. I have no idea what one day
they will suffer, except there’ll be no food under their beds
to feed their bones. No hut to keep what they have yet to know.

How I'd like to be a star right now, nestled
among burgeoning, blinking formations of life,
every day emptying my guts into the void of creation.



https://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/bushmen
Photo by Dominick Tyler

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