Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Another Poem of the Day - April 8

Today’s second poem of the day is from our own Rob Gray. Wish him a happy birthday!

i wish that i were langston hughes
by Robert Gray

i wish that i were langston hughes
or even maya angelou
able to cry out for freedom
over the roofs of the world
from a position of surprising
and unaccustomed strength
but sadly i am not
for no matter how much
i read or think or discuss
no matter how enlightened i may feel
i can never fully understand
as a white poet
privileged if by nothing else
but my own whiteness
how the truth in their words
can see so well into the life of things
and so i am damned
by that same whiteness
always to be disadvantaged
always impoverished

i have always found
a fundamental difference
between white poetry
and black poetry
and i have always envied it
and while i am certainly
as guilty as anyone and
would never wish to oversimplify
it seems to me that white poetry
historically at any rate
has often tended to soar
on the ethereal wings
of imagination and philosophy
with a mission to explore
the deep and hidden meanings
of the heights of heaven
in order that poets might
as prophets or amanuenses
bring the mountaintop down
so that truth might come to be
within the reach of those
of us too blind or deaf
to write the zeitgeist of eternity
and so white poets have pontificated
throughout history on the wherefores
and whys of our existence
almost as if poets and poetry
had nothing else or better to do

african american poetry
on the other hand
has preferred to labor
with its hands in the earth
it has always done its work
in the everyday
at the dinner table
or through childhood remembrances
born out of minds too strewn
with petty cares
or while standing on
the grave of dreams
deferred from the earth’s inside
this voice of the subaltern
long subjected to the margins
has always preferred to work
down in the midst of things
where life happens
lifting truth up to the heavens
in an act of heavy praise
for there is power in pain
and strangled possibility
but there is also beauty
in the fact of blackness
just as there is poetry
in the song of a caged bird
or the lies of a mask
perhaps even more than
in the tortured thoughts
of an overly pensive prince
or an overwrought
ideological wasteland

yet while it is indeed a privilege
to ponder life’s mysteries
by deconstructing the semantics
of our social discourses
even in a vain hope that
by revealing and reversing
historical and hierarchical binaries
they might dry up or explode
it is a privilege wrought
with hidden costs and effects
that we are taught not to see
and while many might argue
that poetry should be above
the baseness of politics
and while there may well be
a richness to those arguments
there is also a whiteness
silently blinding us to the life of things

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