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190 You Made Me Out of the sanctity of old names, birth & death cries, the transfigured future crawls forth on two legs, like the nine-­ headed beast with a question in each eye. It comes to us, a part of us, beckoning Old Man River dragging up earth to the slow mouth of ragged song & surrender, in quest, rage & prayer. Mississippi John Hurt, Johnny Cash, Big Mama Thornton, B.B. King, Merle Haggard, the Carter Family, Son House, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bessie Smith, Professor Longhair—­ roll call & September storm. The past rises in red bud & bluejay, in blood oath & ten ways to love a woman or man. Out of the shapechanger’s lament, my burdened voice unearthed in mid-­sentence—­“way down in Egyptland” lives alongside the leap-­ year’s makada. The ghosts at Shiloh Church trade tongues with sexual lilies beside a millpond, begging dumb-­ struck nights & taproot into the blackest soil this side of the Mason-­ Dixon. Out of this wounded love squinting up at the Southern Cross From Callaloo 24, no. 4 (2001). 191 above the Yellow Dog, singing “Ezekiel saw the wheel” as someone balled the jack in a room at least a mile inside a lonely house. I rise beyond borrowed blame & the thing turned inside out—­ caught in the hinged jaw of love & hate, I come forth. Out of good will, I ride the waves of summertime till I am back washing the midnight blue out of work clothes & Sunday-­go-­to-­meeting suits & dresses. I am man & woman, daughter & son, an albino in thirty-­ three shades of moonlight beneath the last chinaberry tree. Out of would-­ be kings among Greek columns & facades overlooking sharecropper shacks, singled out & strung up between tradition & live oak—­ worm-­ hunger at the roots of the Crosstree. I am a man who came as a boy out of Little Rock, Selma, Mobile & Bogalusa. Out of a land pregnant with Indian mounds, we newcomers stumble out of English brogans, clod-­ hoppers & wooden shoes shaped like miniature boats. Out of Sandy Hook, blood ran into the law of hands & the fruit forcing branches to bow over the graves. The worm begat the mocking bird, the mocking bird begat the one-­ eyed horse, & the horse begat the idea of man & woman. Out of frog holler, 192 love moans, birds of paradise beside the hand pump dragging up cool waters from bedrock, I come when you call my name in a Wednesday night prayer meeting or field holler at daybreak. Out of Birth of a Nation & Gone With the Wind a new cry owns the hills & bank of the Tallahatchie. I found Shango sitting beneath a crab apple tree, holding a scorpion on his palm. The herb man’s medicine had the bossman walking the floor for seven nights as the two-­ headed desire in my body worked its way out of the blood in this earth, red leaves on the edge of an almost forgotten season. Up from lowlands to Blue Ridge & Stone Mountain, our shadows face each other, one divided into the other: the good & the bad, this side of the brain straddling the hex sign drawn in Louisiana dirt. Out of this—­ out of spit & mud, straw & myth, catgut, love & doubt, still I sing till the auctioned-­ off faces rise out of the bottomland. There are no more marks of ownership on my skin, no secret kisses & hugs to pull me under the hush of white satin & lallygag of reeds beside the still waters. ...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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