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from in a land of plenty (1982–85) Editors’ Note: Published in 1982 and reprinted in 1985 by the West End Press in Minneapolis and then Los Angeles, this 221-page paperback is the only book by West to include several of his prose pieces along with his poetry. Largely collected from earlier editions, the poems are divided into four parts: “Works from 1932– 1946,”“PoeticalWorks from 1947–1951 and Prose from 1962–1966,”“PoeticalWorks of the Recent Period,” and “Prose of the Recent Period.” The 1985 edition includes an additional fifth part, “Poems Added to the Second Edition,” as well as a blurb by Dave Roediger from Northwestern University. Both editions include a cover photo of West in overalls and a straw hat and make note of West’s desire for “No Copyright.” The book is illustrated with sketches by Constance Adams West. When I Read the Report46 When I read the report of the Committee uncertainty engulfed me. I knew fear, and acknowledged it, with no apology intended. I who loved America who cherished the dream deferred was accused by the Committee. Plowing fields on the banks of the Chattahoochee the federal marshal found me. His unaccustomed toe tangled in turf, sprawled him belly down on the upturned sod . . . 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 180 selected poems 181 Blushing, he opened his bag to hand me the subpoena. I must report to Memphis on the order of Senator James O. Eastland of the Senate Internal Security Committee. My beliefs and doings were in question. My name was among the accused. Alone in a remote farm field I pondered sadly— not alone for myself but for my family and my country . . . Born to the poorest of the poor— red-neck, cracker, hillbilly— proud of ancestors who never bought or sold a human body but lived by sweat of their own skin, that some among us can clasp the hand of a Black person and say, “Sister, Brother!” In the 1930’s I had started Highlander Folkschool and helped to free a Black lad in Atlanta from a 20-year chain-gang sentence. He had led hungry people to ask for food. Two years in Fulton Tower— protests, midnight handbills, legal action— Angelo Herndon was free! Now I was guilty. Senators Eastland, McCarthy, McCarran47 and other upholders of Nazi ideology said so. Atlanta authorities took a bench warrant with word out to “Get him dead or alive!” 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 181 no lonesome road 182 Little security could my friends offer, Black or white. There was no hiding place. A Black preacher’s wife pushed me by trap door into her basement a poor white mother shoved me out the back door under a bramble thicket when the cops came looking. Leaving Atlanta and the state I love under crocker sacks, driven by a Black man, dropped by the Great Stone Mountain to thumb a ride northward. I who have an intense dislike for Chase Manhattan and Wall Street imperialism found haven with yankee workers. Girl of Matoaka48 Come, Pamela, girl of Matoaka, come to me to where I am on these Appalachian heights where our people’s roots sank deeply in mountain-top granite eagles once rested and ravens built nests . . . Eagles are gone now and the raven, nests fallen like crumbling clay of old chimneys parted from log walls of homes long desolate . . . Come, Pamela, hurt child of the hollow, 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 182 selected poems 183 let us learn together of a people now dispossessed who lived and loved dug life from these rocky hills and coal from under, wove and spun to keep bodies warm hid refugees on the Underground groping a way toward freedom, took up guns against human bondage shed tears and sweat and blood, faced company gunmen and refused to be human clods . . . ! Come, Pamela, tend your roots spread your wings rise look see and possess your heritage! Poor Little Rich Kids At the universities in the 1960’s I read poetry to audiences dressed in bib-coveralls with multi-color patches. Playing at poverty poking fun at the poor by shaggy assumption of dirt and unwashed dress they “did their thing”— and the poor kept getting poorer and the rich richer . . . 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 183 no lonesome road 184 Funeral Notes 2...


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