A Story Told in Song

From the savannah,

the deserts,

the grasslands,

the veldts,

and the jungle,

 

The music played.

 

From the empires,

the gold and diamond mines,

and the pyramids,

The music played.

 

From the ivory tusks,

the red clay,

the ebony wood,

and the skins of war drums,

 

The music played.

 

On the ship,

In the cabins,

In ‘massa’s house,

In the whipping sheds,

and the cotton and tobacco fields,

 

The music played.

 

And at sunset,

Heads lowered over

Unmarked graves of

Old men and

Innocent children,

 

The music played.

 

From the Underground Railroad

through the rise of Pullman Porters,

 

The music played.

 

Through Jim Crow,

chain gangs,

and Sunday morning services,

 

The music played.

 

Through hard times

and celebrations,

and through vibrant

ululations,

and our rising expectations,

 

The music played.

 

In the Deep South,

through the screams

and cries wrought

by night riders

and cross burnings,

 

The music played.

 

Over the sound

of barking dogs

and high pressure hoses,

 

The music played.

 

Through Malcolm and Dr. Huey Newton,

and Martin and Jesse,

and Barack Obama,

 

The music played.

 

Through the first black…(insert pioneer name here)

 

The music…(still playing)

 

We must teach the songs

that kept the voices lifted

though hearts were heavy,

 

Kept the flames of joyous spirits

and the love of hearts

lit,

though our dreams of freedom were

constantly extinguished.

 

Kept hope alive through our best

writers, artists, and orators,

Proud Black Men

and Beautiful Black Women

united in one purpose:

Us.

 

The music played, and plays still…

 

And it will play on

as long as we remember.

 

And if

we

teach it well,

long after

we’re gone.

They Will Answer

In the flurried, frenzied madness

are the words that never come.

There’s a sorrowful, silent sadness

like a rain soaked, broken drum.

 

When your spirit’s badly broken,

when the mocking page stares back,

and you’re reaching, reaching, reaching

down a hole that’s cold and black,

 

When the thirst is quenched within you

and imagination dies,

And the fire’s banked inside you,

no one’s there to hear your cries.

 

Go and order a tequila.

Go and throw a ball or two,

and somewhere between the sun and moon,

the words return to you.

 

For they never really leave you.

You’re a writer, after all.

When you give them life and purpose

they will answer to your call.

 

In the frenzied, flurried madness,

they will answer to your call…

The Summit of Self

 

You’ve traveled far to see me, child,

and never told me why.

Am I supposed to love you, hate you,

live with you, or die?

 

You’ve traveled far to see me, child,

but I don’t know your name.

Am I to solve a riddle or to

play a guessing game?

 

You’ve traveled far to see me

following some long dead star.

And now you stand before me here,

so I’ll know who you are.

 

No longer sentient, my child.

Not able to inquire.

I can no longer see or hear

your circumstances dire.

 

I’ve no advice or wisdom.

You must learn them on your own.

The maggots feasted long ago,

and sharp fangs cracked the bone.

 

I’ll say your name to you, my child,

and I will speak it true.

The skeleton you gaze at on this mountaintop

is you.

 

Descend now from this mountain, child.

There’s nothing for you here.

Death’s but a silent, endless dream

and so you mustn’t fear.

 

You weep, my child, but foolishly.

The fate of all is this:

the gods who see us war and play

betray us with a kiss.

 

 

The Mourning After

Amid the wreckage of Love’s palace he stood, looking at the blood and rubble of what had once been splendid and vibrant and good.

No more.

Empty now, his sobs echoed in the broken rafters, louder for that he’d told himself he wouldn’t cry.

Men have no feelings, no hearts. They are but brute and rutting beasts capable only of low thought and high mischief.

Darkness gathered at the window, peering in on him with its pale lunar eye lighting the ruin he’d become, kneeling with his face in his hands, shoulders shaking like a trembling child.

Sudden, cruel, and terrible had been the sound of her high-heeled footsteps, staccato clacking  like small caliber shots to his heart.

Dignity lost, manhood scattered, his ice veins turned to water,and the water came out through his eyes. Despair had him by the throat and pulled the anguish out of him. He gave himself over and vowed he would always remember

And in the morning after, he would begin to become whole again,

But in the mourning after, he would never forget.

Too Old to Dream, Too Young to Know

They say ‘You grow too old to dream’

They say that ‘You’re too young to know’

Yet say  ‘You can do anything.’

So do I stay or do I grow?

For if I am too old to dream

my time here is already done.

And if I am too young to know

then teach me, so the rising sun

will never find me void of thought

as I look at the world through eyes

of what I’ve learned of love and wonder,

cynicism and surprise.

A jaded innocence possesses

all the years I’ve been alive;

still taking people at their word

though most of them are talking jive.

I’ll never get too old to dream.

I’ll never be too young to know.

I’ll keep exploring although it may seem

there’s nowhere left to go.

 

Emperor

From here I can look

all around

and survey my empire.

There, the distant hills gilded

in silver mist and emerald leaves

humble my own royal robes.

And here, the servants at my feet…

Young. Nubile. Fertile.

Mine to pluck like ripe fruit,

or slaughter as tender lambs.

My bride’s perfume is pleasant.

The eyes of my court are hard.

The halls of my palace

hold whispers of secrets and dreams.

My gardens host ghosts in the moonlight.

They tell me to be at peace,

take comfort,

sleep.

My borders do not

boil with rebellion,

and there is

no alarm of armies

at my gates.

I stand at the pinnacle of

all my achievements,

and realize that as I watch

the setting sun,

there is a smile

in the darkness of my grave

that

patiently waits…

Winter Poem (Day of the Dark Full Moon: 80’s poetry)

his breath hangs

white and smoky

on the

winter wind

carrying his life

before him

lifting his prayers to

Heaven

speaking his words

to some great, nameless

thing

dissipating

words ignored

prayers unanswered

life gone

he

is the

nameless

thing

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.