The Black Blood of Poetry

I am working on my fourth collection of poetry, entitled “The Black Blood of Poetry.” I first came across that phrase in the works of an Eastern European poet, whom I can’t remember, but I remember the phrase because it resonated with me as a Black male poet, and I knew that one day I would work it into my poetry.

I can’t quantify how much of American history is written in blood, but an awful lot of it is the blood of Black folk. A couple of days ago I referenced Claude McKay’s famous poem, “If We Must Die,” about the race riots that spread across America in 1919. (For people who associate rioting with black folk, I must reiterate that white folk descended into Black neighborhoods, beating and killing Black folk.) It’s a beautiful sonnet, not really about dying, but about resisting and fighting back even when death is certain, even more so because death is certain, that there’s a certain beauty that must be honored in an honorable death.

In the poem McKay writes about how this black blood is “precious” – a precursor of #BlackLivesMatter.

A number of years ago I wrote a series of poems on hero worship. It was a PEN Writing Award Honorable Mention. Given the pandemic, and how we now see essential workers as “heroes,” I took a look at those poems and refined some of them. Given the global protests in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, who just wanted to live (to breathe), not to be a martyr of police brutality (Note that I wrote a collection of poetry on police brutality, “Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats”), I was inspired to resume work on “The Black Blood of Poetry.” From it I want to share this poem:

The Alchemy of Hero Worship

In death they’re transfigured,

Turned into heroes by a strange alchemy.

 

On sweltering summer Southern streets,

They stared the enemy in the eye,

Barking dogs and barking white people,

And earned their stripes on bloody Southern streets.

 

Some watched the action

From the safety of their homes,

In black-and-white.

 

Some spouted opinions

They weren’t willing to die for,

While the others faced the enemy:

Barking dogs and barking white people,

And law enforcement brandishing batons

And wielding water hoses.

 

Passively, peacefully protesting,

They were violently blasted down the street,

Made clean in this unholy baptism –

Southern hate and water hoses,

Their blood mixing with the water.

 

History’s witness:

Their tall tales are true,

Not whitewashed!

They stood on the battlefield.

They stood tall on Southern streets,

On sweltering summer Southern streets,

Staring the enemy in the eye:

Barking dogs and barking white people;
Their blood mixing with the water

Blasting out of water hoses.

 

On those sweltering summer Southern streets,

They were washed in the blood

Of Southern hate and racism

And were transmuted.

 

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 Amazon.com.
This entry was posted in Lest We Forget, police involved shooting, police-involved killing, race, Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats, Streets of Rage, Urban Impact and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Black Blood of Poetry

  1. Dr. Charles Atkins (with an XtraLenz) says:

    Thank you for this. Indeed it can be considered strange this form of alchemy in America where a “loser” or a person who falls while fighting oppression, can be transmuted into a “hero.” It seems that America has produced many “heroes” whose stories are revered by many of the descendents of those who killed them because of this alchemy. Perhaps time has been a necessary element of this alchemy. The more time passes from the fall of a loser, the more interpretations of the person’s life can form which transmute the person into a hero.
    However, in the case of George Floyd, less time was needed for him to be transmuted into a hero. It seems that confinement (from COVID-19) is the ingredient that has quickened the alchemy and the lives of Americans toward justice.

    Liked by 1 person

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