Nº. 1 of  93

i am the darker brother.

a collection of poetry from the genius of the african diaspora.

The piano hums
again the clear
story of our coming,
enchained, severed,
our tongues gone,
herds the quiet
musings of ten million
years blackening the earth
with blood and our moon women,
children we loved,
the jungle swept up
in our rhapsodic song
giving back
banana leaves and
the incessant beating
of our tom-tom hearts
We have sung a long time here
with the cross and the cotton field.
Those white faces turned
away from their mythical
beginnings are no art
but that of violence—
the kiss of death.
Somewhere on the inside
of those faces
are the real muscles
of the world;
the ones strengthened
in experience and pain,
the ones wished for in one’s lover
or the mirror
near the eyes
that record this lost, dogged data
and is pure, new, even lovely
and is you.

—michael s. harper, effendi (for mccoy tyner).

When you enter
Strange cities
Be silent
In the streets
But speak
With all
You meet
And you will see
As the people see
The poor people
Are very rich.

When you enter
Their homes
Eat with them
Or they will hate you
But eat not
That which will kill you
Even if they insist
For you have been taught
By the Great Teacher
And they know Him not
May even mock Him
To your face
But cool your voice
They will submit
When they meet Him
When they see Him
In you.

When you love
Peoples of the world
Rivers are nothing
Between you
And strange tongues
A soulful tune
Salaam, salaam…

—marvin x, al fitnah muhajir.

One black brother with good intentions
and nappy hair and brown sandals
and a cloth sack of black books
which added weight to a heavy gun
on his half-healed shoulder of his arm of his hand
which he used to use
to smooth his natural
when times got hot and hair got kinky
at brutal battles
at conference tables
in days of old.
SO
One black brother with good intentions
and nappy hair and brown sandals
took 3 seconds to shift the weight
to raise the hand
to smooth the natural
to square the shoulders
while whitey saw him
and slew him
as in the days of old.

—tena l. lockett, the almost revolutionist.

The shouts shrink to a tense
silence. Trembling tongues
of fire turn to ashes.
The invisible blood burning
in our black faces—we huddle
bitterly at bay in this hovel—
cops clutching their stiff
rifles—eager to kill.

This baptism with fire, people,
is our redemption—our kindled candle.
Our dreams have long ago drowned
in the guts of the sea. We leap
blindly at dragons—our bloody bones
bolting through the skins edge.

—xavier nichols, the baptism with fire…

I see them move,
The black men there,
With shells for shoes
And sea for air.

They’re bound in lines.
Their dragging chains
Once held anchors—
Now like trains.

Their crops are mire.
With broken knees
They plow the floors
Of restless seas.

Horrible is it,
What’s to be—
Black human miles
Inside the sea.

With mighty toil
Their burst hands drop.
They move on past
The shattered ships.

It’s west they move,
And north to land,
They never sit,
They barely stand!

Their teeth strain on,
They have not stopped.
They knew the goal
‘Fore they were dropped.

O northwest lands,
See what’s in store,
As deathless men
Stride up your shore!

—carl gardner, the middle passage.

Pigmentation
A mirror image
of black on black;
a preference that
leans away from
fading colors and
imitation whites.

Posture
An on-your-toes
approach to the
mazeway of the
real world; a
shoulder squared
against what’s
happening—the man,
the hawk, bad luck,
blues. A motion,
a dance, a gesture,
a cool stance; a
walking that walk,
talking that talk
that is “now,” Man.

Position
Apartness, uniqueness
a separatism permitting
cutting through
white irrelevancies
to confront basic
issues; a revolutionary
zeal to overthrow
oppressive might,
a moral obligation
to change a wrong
to a right.

Perspective
A clear black eye
that peers through
the midnight muck
of man; a deniggerized
aspect and value;
a defiant trust
to wipe out
white wash;
positives of
assertive acts, affirmations
a strong “Yes,” not
negatives, invisibility
non entity.

Pride
People power
People magic- Soul
An exuberance of
existence; an
escalation of
self awareness
and appreciation.
Gut knowing buried
deep in the womb of
oppression turning stone
to bone, to flesh and
blood, and tears and
smiles, to love,
to life;
pulling
pulling
a magnet
pulling you
all the way back home
into a thing that
is
BLACK

—sarah webster fabio, black is.

America
Is a fairytale fraud
Where democracy is pronounced,
Dippity-Do
Ten times on a T.V. commercial—
Insulting my
Black mother,
My black sister,
My black wife,
My black self.

—bobb hamilton, america.

I LOVE old faces mellow wise,
That smile; their young-old laughing eyes
Undimmed, still view, in sheer pretense
Of youth, their own sweet innocence.

I love old hands that trembling bless
Youth’s wild impetuous duress;
That find in childhood’s tangled cares,
Life’s answers to unuttered prayers.

Old things to me are dear and best:
Old faith—that after life is rest;
That somehow, from above our will,
God works His gracious marvels still.

—charles bertram johnson, old things.

WRENCHED from the hold of a deep delvèd tomb,
Where slept the ancient king Tut-Ankh-Amen,
Raised from the dust of earth’s secreting womb
Egypt’s long vanished glory lives again.
Art’s matchless treasures hid in ages past
Yield to the march of Science and of Time
Which brings to light new spoils and trophies vast
And bares a craft both startling and sublime.
From out the Nile’s rich bed and sleeping sand
Within the slumbering Valley of the Kings,—
Beneath the stroke of an enchanter’s wand
The fount of immemorial culture springs,
The while a gasping world in wonder stares
To view the greatest marvel of the years.

—george reginald margetson, resurrection (on the discovery of pharaoh’s tomb. february 1923)

FAR above the strife and striving,
And the hate of man for man,
I can see the great contriving
Of a more than human plan.

And day by day more clearly
Do we see the great design,
And day by day more nearly
Do we footsteps fall in line;

For in spite of the winds repeating
The rule of the lash and rod,
The heart of the world is beating
With the love that was born of God.

—benjamin griffith brawley, the plan.

HERE lies a man whose soul was so
Puffed up with pride it could not grow.
Yet maybe, in the life to be
The fates will give it liberty
And let it reach, through steps severe
The size of it fancied it had here.

—joseph seaman cotter, sr., on a proud man.

I sometimes feel that life contains
Nothing, in all its wealth, to pay
For half the sorrows and the pains
That haunt our day.

Ambition lures us on and on,
A dangerous and a treacherous guide!
With every vict’ry that is won
Goes humbled pride!

And, still, we labor, love, and trust,
And seek to conquer as we go!
We reap at last repose in dust—
Naught else we know!

We leave the gewgaws of our power,
The hearts that hate us, and adore!
And after life’s distressing hour—
We know no more!

—timothy thomas fortune, we know no more.

Make me a grave where’er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill;
Make it among earth’s humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

I could not rest if I heard the tread
Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
And the mother’s shriek of wild despair
Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.

I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As they bound afresh his galling chain.

If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.

I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

—frances ellen watkins harper, bury me in a free land.

Heard you that shriek? It rose
So wildly on the air,
It seem’d as if a burden’d heart
Was breaking in despair.

Saw you those hands so sadly clasped—
The bowed and feeble head—
The shuddering of that fragile form—
That look of grief and dread?

Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
Its every glance was pain,
As if a storm of agony
Were sweeping through the brain.

She is a mother pale with fear,
Her boy clings to her side,
And in her kyrtle vainly tries
His trembling form to hide.

He is not hers, although she bore
For him a mother’s pains;
He is not hers, although her blood
Is coursing through his veins!

He is not hers, for cruel hands
May rudely tear apart
The only wreath of household love
That binds her breaking heart.

His love has been a joyous light
That o’er her pathway smiled,
A fountain gushing ever new,
Amid life’s desert wild.

His lightest word has been a tone
Of music round her heart,
Their lives a streamlet blent in one—
Oh, Father! must they part?

They tear him from her circling arms,
Her last and fond embrace.
Oh! never more may her sad eyes
Gaze on his mournful face.

No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
Disturb the listening air:
She is a mother, and her heart
Is breaking in despair.

—frances ellen watkins harper, the slave mother.

Reading clouds beyond the road
I calculate our distance, survey
the space between our clothes
where rising curves and mountain
tug for air, touch, release.

You drive to the hairpin slope,
hesitate, turn up and in. We ride
on every naked fear you have
and discover that men like us
are not all granite, shale,
deceptive quartz, or
glittering layers of mica.

From here you see the whole world
differently: brownskin,
tufts of black grass.
And many times I have given myself
to summits like these.
Ride in, ride high.
Ride until the clouds break.

You will learn to read rain. You will
follow the white gravel it leaves.

—melvin dixon, getting your rocks off.

Nº. 1 of  93