The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.


My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy

January 1, Dawn

After the celebrations,

people, TV channels, telephones,

the year’s recently-corrected digit

finally falls asleep.


Between the final night and the first dawn

a jagged piece of sky

as if viewed from the open mouth of a whale.

Inside her belly and inside the belly of time,

there’s no point worrying.

You glide gently along. She knows her course.

Inside her, you are digested slowly, painlessly. 


And if you’re lucky, like Jonah,

You knock on the door

You knock on the door but nobody answers. Cupping your hands around your face you peer through the side-panel of frosted glass. A kettle is whistling, a woman singing as she sets the table. This is a familiar house. You knock again. Inside, the sounds are festive. Glasses clink and a band starts up. Pressing your ear to the door, you hear the sound of your own laughter. This is the house you grew up in. You're sure of it now.

from Cross River . Pick Lotus



How to describe sea

To someone who’s never seen it?


He lives to ninety-nine, he wants it, to see it

To walk on its glass surface, to blow the seven trumpets.


At this joyous moment gigantic angel wings

Write prophecy all over the sky. How can I tell him 


About sea storms, the chocking waves

These things, right and wrong, that happen between us?


The prophecy he can’t read is the world, tears

That become sea, sea that dries to salt.


Packing for the Future: Instructions

Take the thickest socks.

Wherever you're going

you'll have to walk.


There may be water.

There may be stones.

There may be high places

you cannot go without

the hope socks bring you,

the way they hold you

to the earth.


At least one pair must be new,

must be blue as a wish

hand-knit by your mother

in her sleep.




Take a leather satchel,

a velvet bag and an old tin box -

voyage, oh voyage!

voyage, oh voyage!

the final fire that ravages the air

unveils the soil on which

we walk aimlessly

and tirelessly


the hypocrisy of the strong protects us

from home. I prefer leaves

yellowed by the rain to false



so I listen to the wind. It's good to live

where there's dying, where the legends

go out... our tombs will be as

light as angels' wings


let's not bother to fear those

who insult our insubordination


Give me a few more hours to pass 

With the mellow flower ofthe elm-bough falling,

And then no more than the lonely grass

And the birds calling.


Give me a few more days to keep

With a little love and a little sorrow,

And then the dawn in the skies of sleep

And a clear tomorrow.


Give me a few more years to fill

With a little work and a little lending,

And then the night on a starry hill

And the road's ending.

Through Time and Bitter Distance

Unknown to you, I walk the cheerless shore.

The cutting blast, the hurl of biting brine

May freeze, and still, and bind the waves at war,

Ere you will ever know, O! Heart of mine,

That I have sought, reflected in the blue

Of these sea depths, some shadow of your eyes;

Have hoped the laughing waves would sing of you,

But this is all my starving sight decries -




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