Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stanely Crouch: Poems by a Hanging Judge

No New Music

In Mississippi
balloons of hunger
blow themselves up
in the bellies of
children on porches
in slat-thin houses
held up by stilts,
the teeth of mad
men turned to wood
to wood and tarpaper
and holes in the roof
“Holy vessel of truth
sail through the night now and save these children
these children whose legs bend bowed under the
bone-wilting fire of rickets”

Black Queen
empty as a raped peanut shell,
lie down beneath your quilt
of roaches and pray for your children
pray to the stars who
spy at night on your poverty
on your husband with his arm
across his eyes
his hands smooth with no money no work nowhere
his eyes tattooed with the
red neck and face
of the devil himself,
his eardrums playing
back the tunes of abuse
the beasts blow through
their corncob pipes …
No new music

Albert Ayler: Eulogy for a Decomposed
Saxophone Player

(The saxophone turned into a dolphin
or a flying shark with transparent teeth of fire
behind which the shadows of ghosts could be seen dancing
or a seal spinning sound under the ice
you wore a leather suit
and the metal pipe covered with stemmed buttons
plucked the notes off the music and left the sound.
Don felt fresh wind in his face
Don Cherry did at first hearing you
when we wind back to scandinavia
and the legends begin)

1.         GHOSTS (the national anthem)

Sometimes a saxophone
is a home
twisting dead women
through the air
(You feel the hymn
the old lonely hymn
the hymn we all never would’ve sung)


And we can step high
And we can step high
and we can step high
and walk away
And we can step high and we can step high and we can high step
and walk away
Don’t you know that the old black men
now walk across the fields
walking slowly up their deaths
But don’t you know that the old black men’s
souls shout high across the fields


But we could never rejoice in the river
only decompose in the dark
the flesh-ringing dumpling in the water of november.
Did the east river bite your heart,
Did it bite, Albert,
while exhibitionists,
flipping themselves out,
waved from bridges?
Did the water, that wet cold fist with slobbering ripples for
line of a palm,
did the water make your body look as much like a
sea horse as your saxophone looked like one—
but you though in the scales and stretches of decomposition
Mr. Albert Ayler
the old men’s marcher
twisting the voices of dead women through the air
and it is the river
puzzleboard pieces of ice
and no more gray flames of drummer’s howls
in the blue background

4.         BELLS

We walk
We hum
we summon streets
we shout down the streets
we moan down the streets
we kick spit curse and sing
It is never warm now
No days

5.         LAST STAND (as the flesh rises & waves away)

And the sharp nails of our notes
become hurry picks with which we climb mountains.
Up that mountain of horizontal rungs of air
the chest has to be big to sing any song way up that high—up there:
the atmosphere thin with ghosts
weaving through saxophones
and we’ll remember, Albert,
as we walk, as we hum,
that you sang up there, playing
the bells—summoning—in a ferocious, a growling,
a honking big-heartedness
before the air was greased
up under the bottom of your feet
and you fell, were pushed, accepting “the river’s invitation”
and the water plucked your beard
with its filth and its cans, its garbage,
plucked your beard,
and your flesh
now a slimy brown harpsichord slapped ashore
November 25, 1970.

1970/December 24 to January 24, 1971

The Poetry of Black America. Copyright © 1973 by Arnold Adoff. Introduction copyright © 1973 by Gwendolyn Brooks Blakely • Harper & Row • New York, N.Y. 10022

Notes of a Hanging Judge: Essays and Reviews, 1979-1989 by Stanley Crouch


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