There will always be nuisance.
or I could let myself be captured
by the magic flute of satyrs
who would gently lure me to entrapment
to drink my blood
for one more day of life.

If in my substance
it could be conveyed
how little I give a damn about tomorrow,
the length of my trousers,
the circumcision I didn't agree to,
the daily shave, the score, the mythology.
Would they be shocked to discover
contempt clinging to my cells like algae.

Nuisance: dying to assuage insanity.
Religious fervour. Moral pandemonium.
The unexpected lurks near the hours
you thought private.
What will you accept
in exchange for your silence?
What life do you want
for one more day?

If it's a better vision
let's die here, a soldier's death,
the death of tulips -- and spring.
If blood and flesh will win us
a new world that is not a token
or a statue covered in pigeon shit.
 
     

 

 

 

"Overtones" © 1987, 1996, 2002 by Essex Hemphill

This piece appeared in the first edition of the companion book Tongues Untied: Poems by Dirg Aaab-Richards, Craig G. Harris, Essex Hemphill, Isaac Jackson, Assotto Sainte (London: GMP, 1987). Reprinted here by permission of the author; the Frances Goldin Literary Agency; and the Hemphill family.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
 
     
 

 Original Graphics © 2002 by Emmanuela Copal de León
 

 

 

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