Two Poems

Cover for Southern Exposure's Southern Black Utterances Today cover featuring a woodcut print of a Black man's face gazing upward, by Atlanta artist Lucious Hightower

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 3 No. 1, "Southern Black Utterances Today." Find more from that issue here.

(Blackwoman: How come we always get into a hassle?

Blackman: . . .

Blackwoman: We never used to hassle this way

before we started making love.

Blackman: No, I think, maybe. . .

it just didn't matter as much.)




Once toward the end of Civil Rights I wrote a poem called "To the last

of My White Boyfriends."

Now I say to you

To all my baad-assed half-assed ego trippin jive-ass revolutionary niggers

This poem

is for you.


So sit yourself down

Deal with it in whatever way you can

Because I have stood on my head and walked on the ceiling.


I have been kind and good


Fought back the tears of widowhood.


I have contrived myself

Deprived myself

I have allowed myself to be despised and yes,

Even dehumanized

So you could do the man's work you said you had to do.

I have earned the right, my man

To talk this way to you

An you ain gon' say nuthin

till I'm through:


Slipped gears, you and I.

A huge machine-created miracle immoral technological contraption

Put imperfectly together in the West.


Clanking along turning scraping slow-grinding down each other's mettle

Wear and tear and turning into junk.


Worlds ready to explode with the power of our contact.

Yellow, white and orange light blazing visions out across the sky

Illuminating our destruction as we demolish death.

Alien structures quake and falter

Are leveled crumbling to dust before the power

(slipped gears)


      (slipped gears)


Power in the steady earth-refilling sound

Our footsteps make a path

Greening earth a New Way.


My body gathers up the sparks your vision gives off

Harbours all the cherished New Life of our dreams


Meadows turn green on either side of us as we walk by

(You do not see; your eyes are blinded by visionary sparks)

And trees nod new leaves to us as we go along the way

(You do not see)


Slipped gears. Imperfect contact.

Short-circuited the mechanism clanks along the way

I run clambering behind (you do not see).


Slipped gears.

The dream is good.

The vision lingers like an orange sunset

Spreading overflowing on each skyline of our New Attempts.


If we could just stop along the roadside long enough

Take it apart piece by piece

Looking anxious over our shoulder gleaming metal spread out all around us


Wondering how long

how long the orange sun will wait for us

to put it back together.


Slipped gears. (The dream is good).

Imperfect contact. (The vision lingers).


While black men stalk in circles blinded in the woods at night

We woman-wait by the roadside squatting

Our helpless hands filled with machinist tools

We do not understand

Our brimming eyes filled with sunset orange.


The dream is good.

The vision lingers.

The sun waits with us

And will not go down.

April 4, 1974



Let leisure-time metaphysical gentlemen

Write sonnets to their lady-loves

About the wandering needle of the compass

And the fixed point that draws the needle

Ever back to rest.


We don't have the time.

(The brother said: It's Nation Time.

And Malcolm's body lies bleeding on the floor)


You and I, looking out the kitchen door

know the Gentle Knight was really shucking his Lady

Love in all that fine conceited Renaissance-Man language,

and a really into nuthin cat behind the frilly gestures.


But still . . .

A universal motivation lies encapsulated in the cultural

forms (there are such things as archetypal images)


And I, a woman

Define my being in your burning, faltering, dimming,

blinding light


And cannot move, except you motivate me

And cannot radiate, except you fire me.


So therefore

Putting the thing in proper perspective that is, talking

about our own black selves my man and our black life:


Then I would say

Without the frills and finery we never owned


That I am for you Black Man

A fixed planet.

A never-moving star on your horizon.

(Turn your head the same way toward each

morning; you'll see me there)


I am

The tough and sometimes mad black nucleus around which

you describe ever-widening circles in never-ending spheres

of liberation.                (I know your actions seem to take you farther

from me. But you are never really gone.

And your eyes are always fixed on me.


So go head on and do that


(The Brother said: It's Nation Time)


Tell time by me.

Grow big by me.

Through despair and hesitation, measure the estimation

of your manhood by me.

(You'll see it in my eyes.

Keep your gaze steady on them when your

circles begin to zigzag.)


Take what you need from me. I am self-renewing and self-generating

And I will be there intact tomorrow when you look up

at the day.


Adjust yourself to the rhythms of the cosmos

by me.


Orient yourself toward your Black Destiny

by me.


August 28, 1974