The Black Blood of Poetry

Over the weekend I got some good work done on my title poem, “The Black Blood of Poetry.”

A little more than twenty years ago, a poet-friend, Rachel Wetzsteon, who committed suicide in December 2009, perhaps because she felt too much and too deeply, as poets are wont – they are also incurable Romantics – told me that I should flirt with various poetic forms. With her advice in hand, I flirted with Ms. Sonnet – and my absolutely most favorite sonnet is, “If We Must Die,” by Claude McKay, about the Black Summer of 1919 – and Monsieur Villanelle, and various other forms. In playing the poetic field, I fell in love with the Pantoum, a Malay verse form. The Pantoum lends itself very well to elegies. Thus I thought it would be the most appropriate form for the title poem of “The Black Blood of Poetry,” which begins with a stanza on Emmett Till, followed by stanzas on Medgar Evers, one of which I decided to include here, and ends with a stanza on George Floyd. In between these bookends, there is so much Black death, mostly at the hands of white folk. In this poem I focused on Black men. In my third collection of poetry, The Black Feminine Mystique, which is dedicated to my four sisters, I pay tribute to women of color across the ages. So cut me some slack here!

The Black Feminine Mystique

The Black Blood of Poetry
His beaten and bloated corpse for the world to see.
Look what white folk did to this little Black Boy!
“No way I could describe what was in that box!”
Mamie Till Bradley said of what had been her son.

Look what white folk did to that little Black Boy,
This “’Chicago boy,’ stirring up trouble” in Ole Miss.
Mamie Till Bradley said of what had been her son,
Beaten beyond recognition, pistol-whipped with a gun.

This “’Chicago boy,’ stirring up trouble” in Ole Miss,
White Citizens’ Council of America members declare.
Beaten beyond recognition, pistol-whipped with a gun –
Lynched as an example for which white folks do stand.

White Citizens’ Council of America members declare,
Violence as a tool to keep Black folk in their place – 
Lynching as an example for which white folks do stand.
His beaten and bloated corpse for the world to see.



In the Blood Cotton Fields of Ole Miss,
Perhaps a clue to Till’s kidnapping unearthed.
The Association’s Field Secretary, disguised as a cotton picker,
Makes his way through red soil fecund with Black blood.

A clue to Till’s kidnapping unearthed in the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss?
The River, his penultimate resting place, his beaten and bloated body buoyed,
Floating, not wading in the water – not found in the soil fecund with Black blood.
Look what white folk did to that little Black Boy!

The River, his penultimate resting place, his beaten and bloated body buoyed,
Revealed, a Testament of white Southern violence writ large on Black bodies.
Look what they did to that little Black Boy!
An Apocalyptic American Nightmare, foreshadowing the fire next time.

A Testament of white Southern violence writ large on Black Bodies –
Burn, baby, burn, white folk sing as beaten Black bodies burn on bonfires of hate,
An Apocalyptic American Nightmare, foreshadowing the fire next time,
War in the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss.

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 being a teenager, Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, crime, ezwwaters, Lest We Forget, Poetry, race, raising black boys, Relationships, Streets of Rage and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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