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  • Observing Rain, and: The Negro Speaking, and: The Negro Speaking, and: Poem Beginning with a Line by Etheridge Knight
  • Nkosi Nkululeko (bio)


We were beneath it all, rain causing mistin peripheries. Sputtering . . . swigs, gullies of sky-water flooding shadows—pawprints dispersedon the mud floor, the stirred moments slurring.My eyes pull to words you, my friend, almost disguisedin the deep shade draped over it: the engravedpoem on wet, green benches . . . (our keen sensesreflecting,) about needing only simple earthand all its rain, its merry-time dances across plains.I think the poem's about leaving madness: my tangentsforming spirals or dogs running back to masters.I'd see the splitting wood with my eyeszooming on the bench's planks, perfected copies,communities of flies roosting in their chasms.You'd hear their buzz-dialectics over the loud weather,you could see a sluggish bulb of water slidingdown the wood's side. I can hear its sly tide,its revisions of celebration. Too soon I'm recalledfrom my reveries, the world moving about, timeas fleeting as it needn't. What does that mean,to figure we exist in degrees? Other worlds paradingin your house's corners. The slanted window,in its own world, imagines holding the pure waterhostage in the glass to find a truth (the candor, a curse),because, like us, the window sees it through itself,seeing phantoms. [End Page 23]


                  This is the Negro speaking on Negroes, Niggers, Niggas,Niggaz, the "We are the News" Jigaboos, or on more of the newNegro Negrophobiacs new to the Negroes whom are newer now,the postmodern N-word, sick of nightsticks' swift flight, their ownquick remembrance of ships, the deep waters of Negritude,shores shawled over the stored dead and their descendants, sentto ports, poor ports, you harbor the boring carcasses, my Negrologists,thinkers of Negrohood as their inky mouth's markedmargin scatter at the edge of water, or, the edge of wasteland,parts of names, nations, speech: Nigga York, Connecticutnegroes,Delebewareniggas—each pregnant with gangs of them,thimble sized, chain gangs, their (KLINKS), their (CLANGS),their many money abundant minds murky with mercybut like mercy                  we're purchased                        in partson blocks                  far and wide                  across crossed off continentsa slower                  diaspora                  the grammar learnedby the carving                  of the wives' bellies                  the children                  leaving                  from one womb                  to enteranother wound                  shuckin'                  and jivin'ohhhhh yesssssssssss this almost erotic                  bondageinstilling a hunger                  most beasts learnbefore                  they are                  destroyed [End Page 24]


                  This is the Negro speaking—of arrival; brute, brutality,of the body's bluest shade; of a cruel country, of its conceits,of our slow widening cage; of dreams I dreamed of dread;of ethos, ethics, of elusiveness; of finding fire festive in skulls;of grief, of gods that do not lull; of historical hides I hide behind;of inside skins I skin inside; of their justice, of your jailtime,of death's jargon; of killing in kind, of pale kings who kill;of their breakable law, of layering, of language and its hostile drawl,of men, their murder or their murdered, of their flippant morale;of the knowledge of nuns; of order, orders, of the order to drown;of wanting to be particularly as pretty as a sane psychopath;of our qualms; of souls grown deep like rivers, of our ruthless laughs;of a black killer's soliloquy, of their slights of sleights, of being stolen;of timelessness, of theoretical life; of unsaid urgency; of vengeance;of the wisdom of willows that willows weep for me;of ex-ing the x that exed the x that once was your name, indeed;of your years yellowing at the ends, of your youth that is dead;of what I've learned of finalities it's from the song of Zed. [End Page 25]


You get the blues in twosas if a monochromatic empiricism;the slow process of photosynthesisfor a poisonous flower or a dead fatherfading inside his only photograph,edges of...


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