Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog

Ethelbert and I have known each other a long, long time–way back in the 1970’s Black Power era. In preparation for this interview, Ethelbert did some homework. He investigated both my writings and the various eras I covered. Plus, he kept the conversation moving, not letting it get bogged down in minutiae and not staying on any one topic too long. He is an expert researcher and archivist, what with being a graduate of Howard University and an ardent student of Sterling Brown.

Back in the day, when I was awarded a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, I wrote a poem about and dedicated to Ethelbert.

The poet I talked about who wrote the “I Am New Orleans” poem is Marcus Christian. In addition to this hour-long conversation, there is not much else to say. Thank you brother Eshu.

= = = = = = = 

Echoing Eshu’s Love Songs
(for “eshu” ethelbert miller)

man, the relevance of coincidence is a motherfucker
just today, walked down commercial street
the business end of provincetown
in and out of shops, paused here, there
entered where attracted by something
backed out and continued
found this used bookstore (found?
must be careful of my verbs
i am not a white man
the store was there before i
got there) entered
they had a poetry bookcase
bought 4 books: sam cornish–songs 
of jubilee, kimiko hahn–air pocket,
akua lezli hope–embouchure, and
e. ethelbert miller–where
are the love poems
for dictators? / before midnight
had read, scanned or run thru
them all. yes, of course
i knew about dictators,
have run into a few before
on an occasion or two
or should i say ill-occasion
have even been one, but
i did not own the book on that

there are no love songs
for dictators, not even
i’ll be glad when you’re dead
you rascal you–cause even that
has a bit of affection, anyway
i think it one of your better books
you were on to something
or maybe simply on something
or was it someone
who had your mind so open
you could feel the impress
of another’s smile, another’s
grimace, and you could walk that
shit home backwards and blind
like a beggar going back and forth
between their favorite corner
and the poor piece of space
they call home

so, then i got this email from you. and all i can say is damn, and look out the window a second into the dark and know that either god is laughing or i should be because the universe sure enough knows how to confound the wisdom of we poor wretched fools who make the mistake of trying to understand it, the universe, that is, and i started to wondering if anyone really knows why their lover loves them, actually that’s not quite true, cause where i started with was wondering does nia know why i love her, do i know, is love knowable or simply, if we are lucky, embraceable? like who knows where the song comes from or goes to, we just lucky when we can hit the notes and carry a tune. . . like that, and now i’m free typing this without knowing where it’s coming from or where i will end up, just knowing i wanted to let you know, that i hear you, brother, i hear your songs and echo the rhythms–ain’t no love songs for dictators, for love is beyond the frequency of the ears of those who consciously hurt others


17 Sept. 2021



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