by Yusef Komunyakaa
I have also been left singing Careless Love
but my negritude is nobody’s coonskin cap
on a mountaintop or down by the riverside.
My negritude has sucked all the joy juice
from the days of wild virginal forests
I made to kneel with axe & crosscut.
My negritude has beaten tom-toms
till the drawstring of doubt unraveled
& blood leaked on my blue suede shoes.
My negritude came a long ways to find me
in Louisiana beside beckoning quicksand,
a disappearing act & the double limbo.
My negritude is the caul worked into soil
brought back to life by cosmic desire
& gratitude baked into my daily bread.
My negritude sways before a viper’s
truth serum on an iron spearhead,
belladonna tucked behind my left ear.
From afar, Cesaire, your wit & fidelity
made me stumble-dance a half mile
here, beyond any puppet’s hallelujah,
while grandmama sat in a wheelchair
among the tangled rows of collards,
okra, speckled peas, & sweet corn,
digging with a hoe honed so many years
the blade was a quarter moon—all the
strength she had in her twisted body.
Now, even if this is a sign of my negritude,
I still remember a rain-drenched sun
rising out of the loony old scrub oaks.
Sure, I know the tiger neither speaks
of her tigritude nor the blood she’s left
on grass & wildflowers around the tombs.