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Cuud1an Review of American Studies/ Revue cm1ad1e1me d'etudes ameircaines Volume 27, Number J, 1997, pp. 79-84 Two Poems George Elliott Clarke Watercolour for Negro Expatriates in France" What are calendars to you? And, indeed, what are atlases? Time is wol jazz in Bretagne, you, hidden in berets or eccentric scarves, somewhere over the rainbowwhere you are tin-men requiring hearts, lion-men demanding courage, scarecrow-men needing minds all your own after DuBois made blackness respectable. Geography is brown girls in Paris in the spring by the restless Seine flowing like blood in L~hiL~, African colonies; Josephine Baker on your bebop phonographs in the lonely, brave, old rented rooms; Gallic wines shocking you out of yourselves, leaving you as abandoned as obsolete locomotives whimpering Leadbelly blues tn lonesome Shantytown, U.S.A. 79 80 What are borders/frontiers to you? In actual seven-league sandals, you ride Monet's shimmering waterliliesin your street-artist imaginationsacross the sky darkened, here and there, by Nazi shadows, Krupp thunderdouds, and, in other places, by Americans who remind you that you are niggers, even if you have read Victor Hugo. Night is winged Ethiopia in the distance, ns111gon zeta beams of radio free Europe, bringing you in for touchdown at Orleans; or, 1t is strange, strychnine streetwalkers, fleecing you for an authentic Negro poem or rhythm and blues salutation. This is your lifeCanadian Review of Amencan Studies Revue canadtenne d'etudes amertcames lounging with Richard Wright in Matisse-green parks, facing nightmares of contorted lynchers every night. Every night. Scatalogical ragtime reggae haunts the caverns of le metro. You pick up English-language newspapers and TIME magazines, learn that this one was arrested, that one assassinated; fear waking-like Gregor Samsain the hands of a mob; lust for a black Constance Chatterley, not even knowing that all Black people not residing in Africa are kidnap victims. After all, how can you be an expatriate of a country that was never yours? Pastel paintings on Paris pavement, wall-posters Beardsley-styled: you pause and admire them all; and France entrances you with its kaleidoscope cafes, chain-smoking intelligentsia, absinthe and pernod poets .... Have you ever seen postcards of Alabama or Auschwitz, Mussolini or Mississippi? It is unsafe to wallow in Ulyssean dreams, genetic theories, vignettes of Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, other maudlin moderns, while the godless globe detonates its war-heart, loosing goose-stepping geniuses and dark, secret labs. Perhaps I suffer aphasia. I know not how to talk to you. I send you greetings from Afrique and spirituals of catholic Negritude. Meanwhile, roses burst like red stars, a flower explodes for a special sister. You do not accept gravity in France where everything floats on the premise that the earth will rise to meet it the next day; where the Eiffel Tower bends over backwards to insult the Statue of Liberty; and a woman in the flesh of the moment GearqeElliott Clarke/ 81 82 sprouts rainbow butterfly wings and kisses a schizoid sculptor lightly on his full, ruby lips; and an argument is dropped over cocoa by manic mulatto musicians who hear whispers of Eliotor ElIingtonin common prayers. You have heard Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith. You need no passports. Your ticket is an all-night room facing the ivory, voodoo moon, full of Henri Rousseau lions and natives; and your senses, inexplicably homing in on gorgeous Ethiopia, while Roman rumours of war fly you home. Canadian Review of Arnencan Srudies Revue ca11ad1en11e d'etudes amlmcames Five Psalms of Paris* A poet thumbs Gauloise cigarettes, jabs air With phrases that don't even speak for him, Catches une femme brandish a voluble Bottle of cuss, guzzle pure, bootleg jazz, And fill her mouth with poems that judge every Lover wanting. ]e veux six francs de uin, Douze grammes de Zola, to forget the black Taste of money and espresso, the black Odour of love rotting in littered beds, The brandied smear of prattle and gossip, The stiletto politics this G,iulliste Practises in splayed and broken rues, Grave with differences, where litterature ls blues skittered across Notre Dame's square. II Georrre Elliott Clarke/ 8, These streetlamps bowed, showered Hitler with light, When...


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