Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fields of Satchmo

Fields of Satchmo

The highway sparkles obsidian,
arrowhead shavings,
cities named for the slaughtered,
a country built on crushed culture.

Our Fathers, coffeehouse Athenians,
half their fortunes pressed from
negro flesh so they wrote a
government full of wishes

Filled in the blanks with six hundred
thousand dead soldiers then told
the vanquished they could
go on lynching niggers so
long as they were free niggers.

Dangling bodies spoil a
proper party so we paper the
walls with righteous fictions.
Jazz, for example, as a
pure African form.

Explain the pianoforte, the
Turkish cymbal, the Spanish guitar.
Treble clefs running in
great herds along the Serengeti,
grazing on quarter notes.

If you are going to
survive the American mindfuck you
must embrace the awfulness,
fall face-down in the cattleshit,
open your eyes to find
Louis Armstrong sprouting like a
sunflower, sowing the plains with
peals of brass, smiling a
smile that no one forgets.

Child of slaves.
Handel’s trumpet.
Four-four time with tribal improv,
lyrics by Gershwin,
a swung note at the
tip of Jefferson’s pen.

Notes: A good example of the poem as absurd compression (the entire history of slavery America in seven stanzas). Also, an effort to get through all the BS and call the good and bad for what it is. If poetry isn't about an effort to get to the truth of things, it's worthless. I suspect the urge to write this poem came from my recent promotion to great uncle of two lovely kiddies with African roots. American flag sculpture by Greg Hill.

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