‘Leadbelly Gives an Autograph’ by Amiri Baraka


Pat your foot
and turn
            the corner. Nat Turner, dying wood
of the church. Our lot
is vacant. Bring the twisted myth
of speech. The boards brown and falling
away. The metal bannisters cheap
and rattly. Clean new Sundays. We thought
it possible to enter 
the way of the strongest.

But it is rite that the world's ills
erupt as our own. Right that we take
our own specific look into the shapely
blood of the heart.
                                 Looking thru trees
the wicker statues blowing softly against
the dusk.
Looking thru dusk
thru dark-
ness. A clearing of stars
and half-soft mud.

The possibilities of music. First
that it does exist. And that we do, 
in that scripture of rhythms. The earth,
I mean soil, as melody. The fit you need,
the throes. To pick it up and cut
away what does not singularly express.

The delay of language.

A strength to be handled by giants.

The possibilities of statement. I am saying, now,
what my father could not remember
to say. What my grandfather
was killed 
for believing.
                        Pay me off, savages.
                        Build me an equitable human assertion.

One that looks like a jungle, or one that looks like the cities 
of the West.      But I provide the stock. The beasts
and myths.
            The City's Rise!
                                 (And what is history, then? An old deaf lady)
                                 burned to death
                                 in South Carolina.


Source: Baraka, Imamu A, and William J. Harris. The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader. New York, NY: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995. Print.