NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Vol 17.2: Fall 2017 - Page 94

poetry By Mervyn Taylor Donde Está to Derek Walcott Woman in White after Derek Walcott Only last week I sent you new work, thinking how many lines I should have changed before you received them, frowning, asking the old question — Donde está la música, señor? I had hoped you would read past the first ten pages or so, getting to the good stuff, glasses reflecting the evening light coming off the Vigie headland, making sure my endings were no longer shrill, that they stopped like the wooden wheels of a donkey cart, the animal knowing where better than the driver. I’ve been practicing, Derek, holding each word like a dancer before the dip, in the backyards where we boys readied ourselves for the girls. I did not paint at an early age, as you did. I looked at the living portraits of uncles and aunts, what the sagaboys made of their rough-stitched, determined selves. These are what I sent you, Sir, in disguise, hoping they would get through, that the winds might carry them to where you sat facing the sea. I had no idea they had already arrived, and you had thrown up your hands, impatient with one small error. She sat in a pew near the entrance, in an aisle seat, so that leaning a little to the left, she had a clear view of the casket. The blue flag flung over it was not quite straight, but the vases of flowers offset this, so the whole appeared less crooked. She wore a wide belt of the same material as her dress, a narrow band where it hung slightly off her shoulders, a testament to the skills of her seamstress. The skirt fell to just below her knees, as she sat and rose again, asked by the eulogist, then by the priest, to join in the singing. You’d notice her because she stood out against the sea of dark, that grew darker still when the camera panned close to the altar: the poet’s weeping partner, in black so deep it seemed velvet, and the row of men in worsted suits, five of whom rose to read one of his poems, the same one read by someone else a moment before. That was when the image of the poet in his red wheelchair flashed, as if in rebuke, and the woman in white turned, so you saw her profile above those half-covered shoulders, and longed to know who she was, perhaps an admirer from some village on the other side of the island, who when the service was over would take a bus to go there, like the girl the poet wrote about in Light of the World, whom he watched dismount, wishing he could follow to her door, a stranger calling out to remind him he had forgotten his cigarettes. 3/17/17 46 poetry By Valencia Robin Milwaukee, 1968 Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud —James Brown Bill Cosby was never my fantasy father, but he was my girlfriend Debbie’s, even before the Huxtables, even though she already had a father, back when Cosby was still driving a go-cart on his comedy albums, pretending to be Fat Albert and The Gang, which we could listen to because he never said bad words or talked about sex unless it was over our heads. No, for me it was Lorne Greene and his oldest son Adam on Bonanza, all the brothers on Big Valley, the sidekick on the Wild Wild West and once, long after I should’ve grown out of the habit, there was Lucky Luciano. I don’t remember the name of the show or the actor, but like Don Corleone he wasn’t your typical mob boss, it was about circumstances, his character perennially sad for the life he could have had, a man who wanted to be a river but for the sake of La Familia had to be a mirror or a glass of water. And do you think I cared that in real life he was a murderer and a pimp? Even now my mind misses the theater of us — him tucking me into bed, amazed at my deep kid questions or arriving just in time to watch me make the winning basket — yes, all my favorite tv daddy moments starring me, me, me! And please don’t ask why Lucky Luciano, please don’t look for the logic or the sense, just know that when I needed someone to lift me up and show me off to the moon, he was there. I was there the day black stopped being the worst thing you could call somebody. Right on 16th Street between Friebrantz and Olive. The day before, the exact same word could get you beat up or spanked, but that morning we turned on the radio and it was as if the sun had come out of the closet, as if the moon was burning her underwear. And we didn’t just stand around and watch either. Me, Michael, Sherrie, David, and Theresa — we marched up and down the street singing ourselves into brand new people, doing our part to free the nation. And when the street lights came on, I marched right up the stairs to our second floor flat still singing loud and proud, praying my mother had heard we weren’t colored anymore, kind of worried and yet no turning back, marching around and around the kitchen table, was not going to be moved \ZHHYB[YHZHZXY[[[HYZ[ݙ\]^H[\\[\\Z[\Z[]Y[Hۙ\x&YHYx&YۙHH]KYHH[YZH\[&]X\[Y˂]\