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  • Ante-Bellum, Autumn 1860 By Abraham Lincoln, and: Letter to the (African Baptist) Messiah
  • George Elliott Clarke (bio)


These United States are not a potential tyranny,nor are they a doubtful tyranny.They are half a tyranny—a type of the tyrannical.

In half these states, maybe the better half,Freedom can’t existoutside a necessary conspiracyto shackle and rack th’Africans.

Many Ivy League bureaucrats sweatto ensure stable boys ain’t whipped,but outfitted in white chiffon.Others weigh crops of chains,

or count barrels of manacles.Tea is polite;whiskey is politesse.A paper peace is kept

though grief thrives like grass.Civil loathing is the Congress—realm of detritus.Orators expound a shrieking darkness.

Consensus is bullish,dissent is mulish.Committees stampede, trample, run amok.Black bulls tup each black mule.

Between salty protests—divided ministers divvying up the Gospels(odd believers who cup ale and sing)—a tender paralysis

holds governors, dreamers, and slaves.Storm clouds bust into tearsor applause.The antique aroma of rain refreshes.

South of this White House—precincts clogged with slaves—Compromise is tarred and feathered.Desolate bridges purge this capital of poets

and peacemakers. Warmongersrowdy up on rum,their horses snort, whinny,imperious, imperial, [End Page 643]

as all chatter of Secession.If only our forefathers had hada self-critical revolutionand hadn’t dethroned monarchs

to set up slavemasters,whose silk decreesrequire police, spies, and black blood.Friends, I’m no fan of the Negro!

But our freedom is faulty,thanks to faultless ruinsof logic, or greed.(Misanthropy is theology dressed up as social science.)


I doubt I have a meek destiny.Tameless mosquitoes,careless for policy,zero in on my blood.

My breath isn’t poetry,not yet,but at every instant,admitted into light,

I cast fresh shadows.The future is a score whose melodyis obscureand whose composer is yet anonymous.

Greatness is painful.Power delivers pain and begets grief.But patriotic are my shivers and my tears.See my First Lady—my boudoir honey,

her face is faded silk.“Breath is insipid,that’s not inspiredby love or verse,”

speaketh Walt Whitman,citizen bard camping on the Potomac.(He sleeps with poetry,he sleeps off his liquor.)

Strange how proverbs unlock poems!Look up: A black bird floats like a fish.Soon stars will flood upon stars.Do I conceive uneasy eons of war?

Late summer is us,breathing,still not dead.

A startling speech erases—or engraves—my epitaph. [End Page 644] If war there is,the first shot kills me last.

[Virginia Beach (Virginia) 11 novembre mmxi]


Tons upon tons of cold afflict us here—Positive Nova Scotians of negative character.

This province is nothing but a royal brothel.(Bad, deficient, proves each female.)

The best of our lot are just mesmerizing scumWho dub this nauseating swamp “Elysium.”

Incest thrives here—twixt cradle and gallows.In white genesis*, stallions stab into sows.

Agony of Desire compels us to sin:Pleasure plies its ominous Religion.

Hazy cheer is ours; Redemption is complex.Our mission is Salvation (via intermissions of sex).

Les putains de merde, O Nature Généreuse,These unprecedented parasites leak glaucous mucus.

They live by joining in unhygienic contest;Shit-soused, each pute imputes a putrid antichrist.

Their love has two faces: Jouissance and intenseSorrow. They stroll bow-legged from séance to séance.

(Hear the whorehouse discourse of salt, wet, and fish.All along the docks, one can smell burning fish.)

Glorious Gynecology has come to this:A goad in each cunt, a tongue in each anus.


Not bland or blind or blond,Thou art blunt Black Being from Beyond.

To forestall fault-finding Fires and Flood,You accept Agony upon The Rood.

Smoke-laurelled heads and blood-lacquered handsPrefer You dead as ghostly phosphorescence.

The clergy are treasonous—as they are always:Their sermons distill poison they deem delicious.

(Each preacher is as sincere as a courtesan—Their façades mirror The Sphinx’s insolence.

Prophet-frauds, those library libertines, composeA Codex Gigas** to damn all gullible Negroes.) [End Page 645...


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