#164 Theme: Remembering Gwendolyn Brooks
1. Miss Brooks
February 16, 1971 by Michael Brown
"I would ask nothing better than to see more clearly,
but it seems to me that no one sees more clearly."
--Merleau-Ponty, Primacy of Perception
She dresses like a school teacher,
and her spindly legs
lean at angles to the podium;
her chin points above the audience
and her voice follows her eyes,
rising and ebbing over the people
in longitudinal waves;
she wears her hair like a cap.
She touches her thumb to her tongue
and speaks through old photographs,
aged monochromes in sepia
of Chicago before he grew tall
and of his mousy women
whose brass was dull
when they walked slow.
The newer pictures contrast sharply.
The boy has grown
and his women walk staccato
(even old ladies learn
to walk staccato, too).
She fingers the gloss lovingly, yet,
unable to forget the quiet past
when, just before war was declared
on the bus driver,
she could be angry
at being herself.
Did you notice
how her shoulder blades
seemed to have slipped
halfway down her back?
But her jutting jaw
tucks into her shoulder
and her bulging eyeballs
push at the slits
and demand respect.
Her fiery photos
may still be found
sheening the walls
of paper houses in panic,
and in the embers,
on two angular charcoal sticks,
a nearly burnt-out schizophrenic.
2. Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn by Joseph Powell
She real cool. She
Old school. She
Wrote truth. She
fool proof. She
Sweet brown. She
Jazz tune. She
3. for Gwendolyn Brooks by Danzr Von-Thai
From Yo Bro
Taint yo heard
There ain't no
right or wrong
until u sell
So spank me
show me how
to chisel hate
from your eyes
4. Blackness Blood: Reading Gwendolyn Brooks On the Day I Read That She Had Died by John B. Lee
"if you have one drop of blackness blood--
yes of course it comes out red--
you are mine"
Yesterday I was having a haircut
and the scissors
told the time
as the face of a woman
made polite ventrioquy
in the mirror, I watched her mouth move
where I saw myself as well
growing younger under the sibliant snip
of a sharp silver journey
and we talked, or rather
she talked and I listened
as it is with the withering weather of hair
it fell in follicle feathers
as grey as Plymouth rock down
being plucked for Sunday's company...
and she spoke
of her son, hyperventilating
within a friend's embrace
and fainting into blackness then.
of a girl
inhaling pressurized giggle
from canola oil sprayed in a bag.
She told of tragic children
dying in gasoline vapours that took
their souls away like the visible fumes
of star-hungry dynamos
in the twelve horoscopes of heaven
and I thought
of chimney starlings overcome
and tumbling down the flu length
black as creosote brooms
of how in the culture of children
we are all
so immortally dumb
we have nothing to teach when nothing is learned
how like cat clowders
crowding modern Rome
we cry the loudest
when the darkness throngs.
5. Gwendolyn Brooks wrote this about pool hall hangouts (dropouts of yesterday):
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
---Gwendolyn Brooks from The Bean Eaters
First Things First by Sam Hurst
6. To Gwendolyn Brooks by Marvin G. Kimbrough
A mentor for young poets are you
Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois
Pulitzer Prize winner for your Annie Allen
A poet often imitated
You are my mentor, too
When I read your poem "Kitchenette Building"
About "yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall"
I'm inspired to do my dishes