Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Negritude

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.