Soul and race
are private dominions,
memories and modal
songs, a tenor blossoming,
which would paint suffering
a clear color but is not in
this Victorian house
without oil in zero degree
weather and a forty-mile-an-hour wind;
it is all a well-knit family:
a love supreme.
Oak leaves pile up on walkway
and steps, catholic as apples
in a special mist of clear white
children who love my children.
I play “Alabama”
on a warped record player
skipping the scratches
on your faces over the fibrous
conical hairs of plastic
under the wooden floors.
Dreaming on a train from New York
to Philly, you hand out six
notes which become an anthem
to our memories of you:
oak, birch, maple,
apple, cocoa, rubber.
For this reason Martin is dead;
for this reason Malcolm is dead;
for this reason Coltrane is dead;
in the eyes of my first son are the browns
of these men and their music.
- Michael S. Harper, “Here Where Coltrane Is” from Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Michael S. Harper.
The Poet: Michael S. Harper. A contemporary American master, Harper won the National Book Award for poetry three times and Pulitzer in '93. His poems enrich not only with their elegance, but with Harper's use of allusions to episodes and figures in African American history. Born in Brooklyn, Harper's travels around the USA, often as a professor, are also reflected in his poems. Dig him reading his work: the rhythms of jazz infuse many of his poems and he's a fine performer of his own stuff. Go, Bruno! connection: He's the longest-serving English professor ever at my alma mater, Brown University, and was the first poet laureate of Rhode Island. Here's a video of a recent class he guest-taught at Brown.
Wow. Have you ever heard a more groove-a-licious tune?
The Musician & Composer: Stevie Wonder. Sure, we've a plethora of fine musicians/songwriters in our nation. But geniuses? Understandably few. Steve Wonder is one of them. And his "Songs in the Key of Life" album remains well worth purchasing, as do all his latest works. Want more? Wikipedia's actually a decent place to start your quest: Stevie.
Go, Bruno! connection: And one of the highlights of my last days at Brown was meeting Mr. Wonder, who received an honorary degree that year, and performed during graduation (sa-weet surprise!).
Do you know all the musicians Stevie references in Sir Duke? If not, go check them out.
PLEASE support these poets & musicians who change us with their art.
MFB during African American History Month,