Tuesday, January 18, 2011

it's raggedy. pls feel free to comment and critique at will


Roger discovers the blues

after Cornelius Eady & Joy Harjo

I am a black poet – plain and simple

black first. I do not know

if I am a poet before I am a man

or a man before I am a poet.

I come from a people who have

ways of telling such things.

I come from a people

whose history is inside history.

Some day, if we manage

to still have days then

there will be a great tale told

of how 500 blackbirds fell out of the sky

the day I discovered this

or maybe it’ll say 500 crabs

surrendered their bodies to shore.

I live in an age of martyrs;

of bodies declaring themselves to heaven.

Sometimes these bodies fall

from the air – sometimes wrap themselves

in shrapnel – other times they press

the backs of their heads into speeding bullets.

None of these ways will claim

me. I am confident

of this. I’ve been singing

to save my life since I was born.

My song has always been heard.

I have a drum in my throat.

I was black before

I was a boy.

There is record of this

in the air under a fire which consumed

a Brooklyn nursing home.

I come from a people

who remember such things

who tell stories inside

the stories we are told. We are told

we are not a people of history

but I am a black poet

so I know better.

I’ve been there for the beginnings

of things, so I know better.

I was coming over a mountain-top

in Trinidad when hip-hop was born

so I know better

My people tell several stories

about the supernatural. My grandmother

was once threatened by a ball

of fire in a coconut tree. I believe

her story. it might have been word

of my coming.

The lagahoo dragged its chains

around our yard. A woman whispered

an unholy magic on our steps

and my grandmother’s foot swelled

to the size of a tree-trunk

a woman whispered an unholy magic

into a bowl of cucumbers

and my grandfather fell

deathly ill.

My grandmother survived.

My grandfather survived.

My mother survived.

I survived. This is how

I know the birds flinging

themselves onto rooftops have

something to say. This is how

I know I will not die by bullet

or fire – how I know

I am a black poet.

My great great uncle Obidiah was hobbled

for running. He ran as a way

of spell-casting. He bit a man’s

ear clean off. This is also

a way of casting spells.

This is how he protects me

how I know I will outrun

every bullet. My mother threatened

my aunt with an 18inch ruler

to insist to her how black I was

My mother left me in a foreign country

She came back for me.

She came back for me.

She came back to save me

to tell me how black

I am – I know I am black

because the sky rains finches

& jackdaws in tribute to me

because the sea sings up

its carp & catfish, its crabs

& salmon to proclaim me

man, poet, boy, black, magic,

god, god, god, god,

poet, black, black, black,

black,

unkillable

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3 Comments:

Blogger Xtina Marie said...

Roger,

I saw you read years ago at Chapman University and am excited to have found your blog.

This poem is interesting, because while it seems a bit scatter-brained, that also seems to be what you're aiming for. It would be fun to workshop and toy with it, since there are a lot of directions you could bring it with a couple cuts and a few relocated lines...

I love the word play here: "Some day, if we manage / to still have days..."

and the concept of, "I come from a people / whose history is inside history."

I think I'll keep reading your poems here before I offer any specific critiques. I imagine your style has changed in the past 8 years since I saw you read....

Is this poem a performance piece or page poem?

- Christina Marie

10:39 AM  
Blogger LotusBlossom said...

I heard you speak this piece last night at YCA. I was speechless

I don't consider myself a poet,
I'm an actress so i am always amazed at the emotional pull words can evoke...I have no "formal critique words" but I do know I felt pride, I felt strength, I felt a sense of freedom liberty, with a touch of magic...

My people are from venezuela, Grenada, brooklyn, and new orleans...those cultures are so ethereal to me...and to hear you say the same things that I think, it gave me a sense of pride in myself, in you in my family, in my immediate ancestral history...

Afterwards I felt like "why should i not feel pride, why is it so impossible in this day and age to believe that something deeper than this runs through my veins." and as I travel down my spiritual journey and I hear "you are set apart you are apart of a royal priesthood" there is something ethereal about it...but real...like a history...

anyway it was amazing...please don't change it.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Roger Bonair-Agard said...

thank you guys, for the validation and critical eye. i've already begun tweaking, changing the order of some things, not to "change" it so much Lotus Blossom, as to get more under the layers that my own poem has put there for me to uncover. one love.

r

5:13 PM  

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