Poetry

by Afaa Michael Weaver
Citation
Title:
Poetry
Author:
Afaa Michael Weaver
Year: 
1999
Publication: 
African American Review
Volume: 
33
Issue: 
1
Start Page: 
73
End Page: 
81
Publisher: 
Language: 
English
URL: 
Select license: 
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DOI: 
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ISSN: 
Abstract:

Afaa Michael Weaver is a veteran of fifteen years (1970-85) as a blue-collar factory worker in his native Baltimore. In April 2000, Sarabande Books will publish his ninth collection of poetry, MULTITUDES: New and Selected Poems. He is a 1998 Pew Fellow. Weaver holds an endowed chair at Simmons College and has a home in North Philadelphia, PA.

African Jump Ball

for E. Ethelbert Miller

Can you dribble? Aw, man, you can't dribble.
Do you know traveling ain't going to the West Side

to see your woman? Dribble, man! This ain't no Amtrak Metroliner! Don't bogarde me, trying to roll off to the left. Your lay up ain't that tough. Don't try the sky hook. Give me that ball, partner. Give me that ball.

This is friendship one-on-one.

I'll cut you some slack. Go back to half court
and just run here to the foul line. Do a jumper.
I'll even let you do a set shot and won't even smack
it back to where you buy them dirty sneakers
every Saturday, the You Was Here Yesterday Store.
Tell you what. We'll play for African-American Trivia.
Tell me when William Wells Brown stopped running.

I'll spot you six points. This one is even better. Who is bigger and what the hell is the big that they got? Chamberlain or Jabbar?

You sweatin, man. See, you sweatin. I ain't
busted a bead nowhere, as dry as when my honey
wiped me down this morning with that terry towel
and called me love, called me sweetness.
You and me got trickster hearts,
but I know a foul ain't no fried chicken, cuz.

Bert, enough with the bum rush, man. See there, we done set the net on fire.

African American Review, Volume 33, Number 1 O1999 Afaa Michael Weaver

Michael Holley, Bruthaman Boston Globe Sports Writer, Covers the Celtics-in the '96-'97 season- Loss to Loss

It's the old teams you see at night in visions, the teams with faces as rare as not having names, brothers who played in places not recorded. Or it's the single champions like Jack Johnson grinning and dueling with monsters, men training rifles on his left jab- Jack in the long cars with white women stacked around him. It's the hurrah coming up from around radios each time Joe Louis punched holes in the racial mountain. In ears buried in your past perfect, you hear the soft patter of Wilma Rudolph's feet turning dry dirt to flames spiraling like small ballerinas behind her. You hear the tease of Ali's gloves bringing the bear down, busting the veil with Elijah's hallelujah, Allah.

Let's tear this sucker down.

In the appeal for grammar, you gaze over your monitor at your success, the intoxication of the world coming in and out of this nerve center where you braid the strands in words so indelibly perfect that it is scary to think of this humanity, words as clear as the invisible. It is a facility with language, and sometimes it is wishing all of it, this credibility, was something you could revise with a goddam ice pick, spinning it down the hall in inner-city under-class afro-american finesse, putting punctuation on somebody's ass.

Sheeeet, it ain't nuthin but a word.

There is always whimsy. "Fuck it, 1'11 play polo. I'll be a real subversive." You ain't stopped by no lack of commitment, but by your mama wit or your own wisdom you have from being an uncle or being who you are. It is simple.

Riding a palomino being a bourgeois negro is not the ballgame you can go home and write or brag about. The polo audience is not gifted with insight, will not understand why you think Shine is preeminent among sages, why sometimes an icepick is not enough. It is more a matter of a twenty-two that won't hurt nobody a whole lot but just sorta spray the editors' desks, a contemporary-style book.

Kiss my ass. I'm having a bad day.

AFRICAN AMERICAN REVIEW

So you put a little english on the English, eight ball in the corner pocket in a room where the cigarettes are Kools, the talk of women a difficult love turning on the word, as a bitch is anybody who fucks with you just cause they ain't got nuthin better to do. In this room it is sane to be profane.

Kingfish

for Major L. Jackson & Theodore Harris

Box cars and snake eyes,
the Boston, full-house,
five-book no-trump uptown,
six-book hearts-trump downtown.
The kitty's full-

"Sapphire! Where's my wallet?

Where's my claim to acclaim?" Four cards, one to draw, one short of the flush. Amos in the cab, two hours on his meter-"Hey G grinning to

"I don't roll like that, 'G.' "

Calhoun says, "The price of the ticket is the eradication of obfuscation of damnation and petrification of sublimation in the nation."

Man, roll the damn dice. . .

Black/

Jack Twenty on the table. I don't want no hit. Soon as I'm able, I'm going for the split. Hit Me!

"Sapphire. 0,Sapphire, my Jubilee. "

To Malcolm X on His Second Coming

Malcolm X, alias El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, alias Malcolm Little, alias Detroit Red- Deceased!

The coffin breaks, fingers wriggle through clay, touch the light. A chiseled face comes full with flesh, eyes roaming the landscape of his own prophecy. Negroes in their Infinitvs, Benzs, and BMWs, chzns of gold around heir necks, fifty tons of gold for teeth. sneakers handmade in the elass aavilions

" I

or murderers. Hiphop stirring the empty souls. Up from his tomb in our lost hopes, he stands and prays into Allah's outstretched hands for mercy.

This is why he came back: on a plantation porch, Lil Missy plays with Liza, offering her lemonade. "Liza, tell me again about them runaways you turned in, them bad bucks daddy hanged and cut up, lovely little Liza Mae, brown eyez, brown eyez."

At five o'clock in the morning in Baltimore,
in Philadelphia, in New York, in Newark, in Chicago,
the fresh morning water of showers falls, and
the followers of Elijah utter their morning prayers.
Allah the Beneficent, Allah the Merciful,
All praises to Allah, and the Nation of Islam,
Hope of the resurrection of the so-called negro,
comes to life, the life before the death of the Master.

"Liza, where your mind, chile?
me and the other boys had plans
for bein free and comin back for y'all.
my mama raised you from a little nothin,
and you turned us in. Now we rottin
in some place with no name, cut up
like dog meat. Liza, where your mind?"

Malcolm walks in Harlein along the broken streets, gathering mystified eyes. In Sylvia's he pokes his head in and asks what food there is for the soul. Some woman says, "You look just like Malcolm X. You shoulda been in that movie that boy Spike Lee made." And she goes on cutting up custard pies and singing a gospel song she wrote. Malcolm goes over to St. Nicholas Avenue, looks down on the city. Afternoon shadows begin to fall like the difficult questions of his father. Malcolm mourns his mother, the abyss she fell into and could not escape, the abyss of his genius. In a glimmer an angel settles on his shoulder, as small as a pin but with a voice like a choir singing. "No more grief, blessed son, no more grief."

AFRICAN AMERICAN REVIEW

Malcolm falls to the pavement, sobbing for Elijah.

Lil Missy sits in her bedroom chair, sewing eyes on her doll, singing. Liza listens to night sounds, afraid of darkening the door to tomorrow. Lil Missy says, "Liza, come round here and rub my feet befo you go to my daddy's room."

In the Audubon ballroom the night he was killed, Malcolm X saw his assassins rise amid a host of spirits battling for his life. Demons and angels filled the space, battling for his soft head, as his eyes took Allah's kiss. His murder was a rupture in the world of the spirit, the demons rushing desperately to name their position in the African heart, where the angels fought to defend God's voice uttering His own holy name, Allah. Malcolm's head hit the stage like a giant stone from Zimbabwe landing on Earth. His mind took on its silence while his spirit was filled with song. "Oh, blessed son, come unto me. Oh, blessed son."

In front of the Schomburg, Malcolm rises above the city, his mind covering all of Harlem, while he issues the manifesto:

On self-defense:
strike me, and I will strike you back
On freedom:
freedom is a fire waiting to come
On the future:
no profit will come from destruction
On the Nation of Islam:
the saved are still saving

Caravans form in the streets, unloading the unconscious souls. The open eyes of the living dead stare from windows and shops at this voice that is in every doorway, this body that is the landscape, as if the city is now flesh. In one moment he is there, and then he is gone, letting their bodies go softly back into time. Negroes wonder what has been among them and is now gone. Malcolm sits on steps on Convent Avenue, again just another man. An old woman pulling a cart comes to him, touches his head, and both of them vanish into Allah's wish.

The wise among us chant the filling of our life with life, take this fragment of a gift from heaven and anoint the heads of the young, who are our promise to live-

Teach, Master, teach. Teach, Master, teach. Teach, Master, teach. Wa Alaikum Salaam.

POETRY

Gabriele Hooks received her B.A. in Writing from California State University. She divides her time between California and Florida.

On the Page

1posture between sheets
laced in black.
Ink absorbing into fibers
of conversation undulating
from the lips of women
who identify them-
selves as natural
flaws in the fabric.

Collapsing feelings
to one, I long to be
in their mouths, their heads.
I am light refracting
outward the eye,
stinging and moistening
as they speak
miscegenation blues.

We gather words to graft
scraps of our own flesh
and exclusionary cultures
A hybrid forms in partial
death of an original.
Air of anonymity eases
the fragile equilibrium
of lives feeding
only from each other.

Lighted Path

The moon kissed my womb and settled
me into the life of everyone's
someone, obliging me to find
beauty between bruises.

African American Review, Volume 33, Number 1 O 1999 Gabriele Hooks

The river banks promised Jordan but import hungry children and diamonds instead. Sewer alleys and tenements reclaim their presence.

I resent the sidewalk and avoid the curb. A homeless man tells me the time as if I'd asked. He smiles, waiting for something in return.

Passing some coins I thank my brother and he, his sister. I travel a few corners to where street lights outpower the moon.

I tell myself this matters.

Drawing Parallels

Cracked souls linger in shadows
cast from generations of dampness
and barren light.
Appending children and land
they realize needs and
desires able to bind flesh.

The hold of the love shifts
or strangles at the roots.
Time shrinks to a moment;
a race is eclipsed.
Behind a caul of pathologized history
a spirited world exists.

Unifying moon squeezes in through
mesh screens and quenches grateful
sleepers' skins. This companion
to a raw night's
ignorance squelches noises
rattling in searching provocation.

Explosions and implosions canal
outward and into the night,
smothering and applauding
the screams they produce. Between
midnight and dawn, sex and fear
create parallel needs.

Saint Norma

Within time and outside of franchise she came to be known as Saint Norma, Who winked at the unsavory and beat discomfort down. Heaving her large body of wisdom up through the past

she let vision depart as moist shadows settied old debts and strcked away debris of hard days that drained colors from windows. Strolling veneered and cloistered streets she cursed

the already damned. In hungry whispers from those half-living she uncovered and harbored a thousand sparkling lies. Within the transparent barricade she was the nearest recognizable savior.

Temporary Marker

When red clay dries and turns to dust, it can make almost anything seem like a sunset. Pulling into the shallow ditch that harnesses road to time and places forgotten we visit burial grounds ancient to me. In the granite stones I can touch ninety-five years back. The burnt orange film bypasses these markers, tardily situated as finances permitted.

Among them I recognize my past as shallow and small. So I hold onto my father's words that tumble from between his lips as he recounts the history of this lonely family acreage.

I force faces and bodies onto his memories, fanaticizing them into someone I must have

AFRICAN AMERICAN REVIEW

known in real life. I search the colored section of the grounds for other must-have-knowns.

Instead, I find temporary markers- in case someone forgets. I get closer to read the etched dates that compete with settling dust.

The permanence of the tiny concrete patches becomes clear. These are markers not permitted to become worthy to repel arid, red Alabama dirt.

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