Black Blood of Poetry

The King was dead

You joined the adults

Cried your eyes out

Didn’t know exactly why

Only that something catastrophic had happened

Something that’d set your people back fifty years

You couldn’t even go out to play

Maybe not for the next fifty years

Buildings were on fire


            Burn baby burn


It was like the Apocalypse

Like the end of time

Spoken about in church

The fire next time


            Burn baby burn


Our Black prince

Had already been assassinated

Who was next

Panthers were hunted and killed

Right on our city streets

Brothers were being sent to Nam

To fight a war that made no sense

While there was Civil Unrest

Right on our city streets


            Burn baby burn


Body bags

Were returning on planes

Along with pure heroin

Mothers aged overnight

Sobbed into folded flags

Kids shouted slogans

They didn’t understand



            Black Power


            White boy


While Vietnam veterans

Nodded off into the night


            To die

            To sleep

            Perchance to dream


Napalm burning them in their nightmares


            Burn baby burn


Older bloods were disappearing

Later you’d learn

They’d been sent up the River

Into the heart of darkness

Their absence opened the Void

A Void so dark and so deep

Generations got lost

Some never returned

Others were still trying to return home


Bring the boys home

Bring them back alive

Bring the boys home

Bring them back alive


Black rage

White fright


Neon lights flashing

Flesh beckoning from street corners

Beautiful girls lost and turned out

Drug deals transacted on street corners

Three Card Monte con men

Hustling the larcenous

Even native New Yorkers

A sucker’s born every second


Battle lines had been drawn

But they were easy to cross

You could get lost

Between the moon and New York City

Between Brooklyn and 42nd Street

And never return home


Mind altering drugs

Misled you

Into believing that you were invincible

You dodged bullets

Or at least you thought so

Lived another day to tell your story

You refused to go to funerals

Faced death everyday

But wouldn’t look the Grim Reaper

In the eyes

When he/she was harmless

In a coffin

Ready to go six feet under


            Let the dead bury the dead


You’d never die

You’d never be sent up the River

The cops would never catch you

You’d learned the secrets

Of being an Invisible Man

You disappeared into apartments

While they chased phantoms on roofs

In the streets

You’d grab a girl’s hand

Tell her the truth

That you were a wanted man

And she’d want to save you

She’d guide you right by the police

Right before their very eyes

In plain view

As they say

And you laughed

Because every day you cheated death

You lived another day to tell your story

As long as no one could see you

You were free

Everything was permitted

Just don’t get caught


Even in the asphalt jungle

There were rules

Silence was golden

Everything said

Could be used against you

Even your silence

Because no story is ever left untold

Cops are the best storytellers

Just give them something to work with

A snitch

A rat

A codefendant to turn state’s evidence

A perjurer

Thank God there was no electric chair

Prosecutors have no qualms

About sending innocent men to their death

As long as they get their convictions

Building blocks for their careers

It’s strange

But the guilty go free

While the innocent become disillusioned

Sometimes they escape state-sponsored death


You’ve trod the same path

As the bloods before you

Was sent up the River

Despite your belief to the contrary

Found all the older bloods

You thought were missing in action

One good thing

Since they’d paved the way

And because they were responsible

For the road you took

Because they didn’t leave a road map

And you fell into the Void

Belatedly they taught you

All you didn’t know

Almost everything you needed to know

To live

To be

To become a part of history

History was living


You were reading history

You were reading

Malcolm X’s autobiography

While his killer was a few cells away

It was strange

You hadn’t come into consciousness

When the Black Prince was assassinated

But you met his assassin

Looked him in the eyes

Didn’t see the Grim Reaper

But a disillusioned old man

Praying to the same god

In a different way

You watched him

Wondered why he’d really killed

Perhaps he even wondered why


You played prison football

With panthers

Who’d been set up by the FBI

Later you’d’ see them

Vindicated and rich

On talk shows

Traveling to Africa

Sometimes there is justice


After a terrible price has been paid


But your journey had just begun

You are a Black Boy

A Native Son

Living Sonny’s Blues

You Cry I am

A Man-child in the Promised Land

You came down Mean streets



You traveled

Met people with invaluable lessons to teach

You’re inspired

By that trinity of freedom fighters

Nat Turner

Gabriel Prosser

And Denmark Vesey


You become wise enough to know

That you can’t live in the past

Only learn from it

Even though it could be conjured up twenty years later

Be used against you

But it was unchanging

This you know

And you must move on

Even if others

Would hogtie you to the past


You do battle with demons

Not blond-haired blue-eyes devils

But your own heart of darkness

You fight to break the chains

Of your miseducation as a Negro

Of psychological chains and images

Of the new slavery

Repackaged as Corrections


You read the dictionary

From A to Z

Emulating Malcolm X

Read the Bible

From Genesis to Revelation

Looking for secrets

You think of the dead King

And those 8th century B.C. prophets he admired

Of his assassination

On a Southern terrace

Of your tears

Of not being able to go out and play

Of rioting in the streets

Of dancing in the streets

Of the Apocalypse

The fire next time


            Burn baby burn


More than thirty years later

The ruins remain

War-ravaged urban areas forsaken

You wonder if there are new beginnings

If you’ll emerge from the darkness

Even recognize the light


You remember when the lights went out


Where were you

When the lights went out

In New York City


You were not afraid of the dark

You were bold

And only the bold ventured out into the night

And you were as bold as they came

If you were not afraid of the darkness

There was no reason to be afraid

Of anything


You learned that you could create yourself

Because you’d never been formed

The Void had only touched you

Not devoured you

Who you truly are

A Black Boy

A Native Son

Living Sonny’s Blues

You Cry I am

A Man-child in the Promised Land

You came down Mean Streets




Your eyes are wide open

And no one

Absolutely no one

Can tell you lies

You found yourself in the blues

Cried out when you learned

Who you are

You didn’t boast

That you were a descendant

Of Kings and Queens

Because they’d been buried a long time ago

You know that as their blood weakened

Yours was infused with strength

The strength of survivors

There may be a drop of royal blood

Coursing through your veins

It had been spilt so many times

You doubted it

Need not take refuge in it

If it was there

Because the blood that coursed through you

Is the blood of survivors

You walk in the steps of your ancestors

Your hear their voices in your head

You will walk with this consciousness

This awareness

All the days of your life

Until you take your last breath

Someone will have to close your eyes

Because you’ll keep them wide open

Until you breathe your last breath

You’ll keep your eyes wide open

Until you breathe your last breath


About William Eric Waters, aka Easy Waters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on
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