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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1032

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Galveston: 9 8 1900

Michael S. Harper

No planes into the eye
slate and timber cut loose
bodies cut into
blacks at bayonets buried folks at sea
one white man invited a black family
to live with us      ever after if need be
surge took thousands
a wall of planks even Pip
could not describe
(silence the day after deafening)
Juneteenth not even a memory
yet ex-slaves stayed in the big house
Jack Johnson was already born
fixing to raise the standard forever
(thanks Jack      for that)
once was told to get up off a quaint chair
(before I broke it)
looks on the faces a watermark in a blink
for we are at sealevel on an island
that was never meant to be      blacks atethered
in another hundred years      an icecap
in a nightcap      in a headrag      the petition
no longer partition      but splintered
the bodycount endless      on the dark side      of storm

Copyright © Michael S. Harper.

Michael S. Harper, the first Poet Laureate of Rhode Island (1988-1993), is University Professor and Professor of English at Brown University and author of several volumes of poems. His Honorable Amendments (1995) won the George Kent Award selected by Gwendolyn Brooks, and his collected poems Songlines in Michaeltree was published in the spring of 2000. He is also co-editor (with Anthony Walton) of the Vintage Anthology of African American Poetry, 1750-2000 and Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep. He has also edited The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown and Chant of Saints (with Robert B. Stepto).



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