In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Un-Dad Elegy
  • Jason Allen-Paisant (bio)

We sit on the barbecueBrother B and i

twirling grass straws in our mouthswatching the sun go down

Mama pours out water from the druminto the bath pan and tin

the mento bandplucks out a tune

in the church below the hillit's night meeting time

tonight i will get intothe spirit     rise from my body

and fly away like Mother Puseywhen she claps those hands

each clap sends silencethrough the galaxy

lifts her through clouds singinghow i got over

falling and risingall these years

i sit on the barbecueBrother B and i [End Page 121]

listening to Mama'sdrum pan and water

the church below the hillcatches the spirit

the body a thing of weightfalling through sky


i'm in a coach on the highway Paris-boundsunset flowing in the evening's lapnight lie down in rocksteady

i am five         i sit on the barbecuedangling my feet chewing grass straw       like Brother Bboy following man

my heart racesevery time a car blows hornor pulls up       thinking

that must be my fathera him that come look for me     yeshim come         before the gladness sputters to a halt

the people they fly past    and Mama runs to look        and she stares and peers and     the images will not stoplike the whirlwind         like the hurricane

but daddy was not in the windevery time she lookedinto the car flying past [End Page 122]


i'm going to Paris Mamaat last your grandson

and i cannot sleep tonightwatching the stars

a bus on the highway in the north of Francewe left Lille good time now

night comesspeaking in tongues

rabashundai!   the secret placethe void     the bush     shalla-mashundai!     i give myself over        to a shoutblooming         in painrabashundai! the secret place         the bush of Babel

i started speaking French at thirteenand pronounced every sound perfectly

the vowels rolled off my tongueand i was untied and i soared

away from my body

and in the bush my mother she couldn't see mein the bush i had a part fit for mein the bush shooting bird and going riversomething seized meand every day was a day of Pentecost

my vowels how they wrappedtheir arms around me [End Page 123]


the plumes of the Hautes Vosgesbrush against my skin

will i learn to speak here?       a tongue of loss and forsakingmy mother and father forsook meand strangers took me in

the varnish of the fields   a lynx at my heels

nowhere     and then   unreal city   standing beside meParis   tout       d'un           coup

I take up my room at the École Normalethinking lord help medon another mask

I speak the languagebut the space don't know my body

a room on the third floor of the internat10 sq. meters     a landscapeof speaking voices     nobodyin sight         presence       of mold in the ceiling

*to Paris i come with an EnglishRose from Merton

to a room on the third floorÉcole Normale supérieure [End Page 124]

so high so posh so oxford i comewith coffees and parliamentary green chairs

to the damp roomat the top of the stairs

no sound in that hallway butmy blood red with screams

words sleepin the hollow of my arms

how sharply loneliness cutsthe body

my woman walks so dirgefully beside me

i will always be a stranger herethe thing is     the bloody thing is

i didn't realize it     didn't realizethat black was a different language

that poor Porus was a different languagethat no picket fence no mama and paper and papawas a different language

that going to the theatre every other night     going brokewas my new language     to act bourgeois     and find my bourgeois language

the plush-carpeted Comédie FrançaiseSalle Pleyel     for music opera and theatre

no heads like mineone other black man in the roomwho rises from the orchestra...


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pp. 121-141
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