* I wrote this poem in the Winter of 2009 in my bed surrounded by two dictionaries, a raggedy thesaurus, and an anthology of Black poetry. In so many words, my computer died so it was the first time I literally wrote and revised a poem on paper in a while.
Soul at Sunrise
Seek solace in silence.
Learn the music of your past:
Listen as the genius jargon of Jazz scats
like baaalooo ayeeeeee ya diggy diggy—
for the dames and gents keep jonzin’ for a hit
of horns and drumkicks, guitars and trumpets
just Miles and ‘Trane and Monk and Getz
The muffled buzz of Bossa Nova skips
on vinyl like some smooth stone skimming
the lips of a swooning sea—
for the needle keeps grooving
into grains of thought; the downbeat
conversation of crackling fire
Warm and worn as a back-pocket poem
nestled in darkness but brilliantly scored.
And God says “Let there be spotlights,
and audience and stage and poet and mic!”
The air rips into a rhythmic rift,
rapid runnin’ rapture rushin’
Revolution is coming! Revolution is coming!
Word is Born goddammit
And even God can’t damn it;
He’s too busy jammin’ to the jive of June,
jiggin’ wit the gems and jewels
dreamin’ to a dissonant tune— the Cool:
the bullied Blues of Billie and Hughes
buried above trombones and tombs.
It’s the heavy hues of Suthun’ strange fruit
beaten to a pulp, lying in its own juice,
life fresh-squeezed out, freedom bleedin’ from the mouth
hangin’ like heartache, bro ken ‘til heart break.
The Art of snapping a spirit flips— into Soul:
A virgin-eyed, nostrils wide, mouth pried open tone
A funky cold, solid-gold, mocha Motown moan.
Velvet voices unravel like curls through a hot comb,
not vengeful, just strong
like tired old black ladies on Sunday mornin’,
old bones bumpin’, just clappin’ and stompin’ and loud
giving praise and shouting over somebody’s grave (Yes Lord Jehovah!)
in no shoes, no cares, and no pain— well, at least not until service is over
Four-hundred years of struggle on your back and shoulders ain’t light.
This music—is the fluttering feeling
of finally finding your fire
then letting your lips
revolt against each other
and loosening out one long, impossible note—
a sound so shaky and bleak,
so uncorrupted and sweet,
so powerful and meek,
that you will stand face-to-face
with the dark raspy, rib-rooted truth
only you know so well.
And you will rise
from the madness of this age,
a rare beacon of beauty,
with your head held to the heavens
howling your hymn—in the hem
of tomorrow’s history.