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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1035-1036

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Praisesong For Bb (2 18  97)

Michael S. Harper

In the movie "The Postman" Pablo Neruda
is in exile on an island in Italy
(unable to go home)
the postman delivers his mail
the only literate customer
(on a bicycle)
soon a woman appears as bartender
Beatrice of the plantains you might conjure
(also Dante's "Beatrice")
we know from the cut of the film
there is a tragedy, and a child
(little Pablito)
the postman dies at a demonstration
which is only the reading of the one poem
(who can be a communist in a film)
the essence of your film is on the cutting room floor
but it might be a dance floor: Apollo, Howard, Savoy
(tunes in the upper registers)
lindyhopping is permissible
'swinging those chicks in reefer glow
(Count Basie's band is blowing)
for each spirit over furlongs, every pitstop
the regimen of the hours is in the sky
(hawk is your favorite bird of paradise)
we have known plantations and Palmares runaways
and ease into maroon conditions
(on maneuvers in flight, in mud, in Butler) [End Page 1035]
with the commisary at an open fire
Rosewood, Leonard Wood, Pimloco
(basic training is just fundamentals)
the corps does not allow women to make men
so image, uniform, tack, kindness
(sweat in workouts make for stellar games)
conditioning the prance of the cooldown
flareups predictable and expected
(shower of effects, pinot noir)
Douglass might have been born on this day
he saw his mother seldom, grandma more
(the beard the talisman of manhood)
walked five miles to work and back
from Cedar Hill to Anacostia
(boarded up his wife's room at death)
three autobiographies his anthems to change
literacy giving measure to caulking ships
(have you written your memoirs?)
schemata of cost control at Nashville
the rainbow faces alive in research
(singing at Jubilee Hall at Fisk before the choir)
so you have earned your day at parade rest
obstacle courses remain, in temperance
(as we consider the view from elsewhere)
the sacred names will not be latitude
in this proem, unutterable as the sacred
(and you must conjure them and complete revelie)
fly with the wind, hawkeye,
descend from canopy to the understory
(tell the story in increments)
we will share (again) the primal anecdotes
that only warriors hear in Monk's harmonies
(heard melodies sweet, unheard sweeter)
to take 2000 as porkchop hill
and change the parallels to longitude
(watching the whales in Pip's company)

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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pp. 1037-1038
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