IT'S YOUR MUG ANNIVERSARY ISSUE
Jane Alberdeston Coralin
FOR BLACK GIRLS WHO DON'T KNOW
Amiri Baraka at HR-57, Washington DC, 1995
I was a girl who knew nothing
Of jazz. Just another girl in line, waiting for you to read
The rest of a twenty volume suicide note.
What did I know of your coming music,
Your blue-banded heart, slit-gong tongue,
Hepcat in all your bones. I was a girl
Who knew nothing of love supreme, still stuck
In her papi’s lounge-singer record scratches.
How you would leave me shook, body
A gourd in the hands of egun-eguns, dug up
For song, rolled under my skins,
Tripping me up, rocks in my soles,
Forgetting me how to heel-toe.
You walk in hot,
Hot with flu, 103 degrees of hot
And climbing mountains
In your strut, hands fast and flailing,
Flinging words with sweat, cool,
But not yet hot like cool.
You step up in that right knee strut,
Stage-stride in a broken line,
Your body stamping out a long-lost morse code.
Freedom Jazz, you call it and
Throw your shoulders back,
Back against the band’s yielding riffs,
Bent back, as if your poem were a sax against your lips,
Reaching towards the ceiling for legroom.
What shaman in your staccato, hand smacking leg,
As if all of you were made of word,
Tapping the air, our ears, the wall with bop,
Backbeat, timbale, crisp lettuce sound.
You start the long Whoooooo towards eeee
And I think of the dizzy ways we mourn.
Blood confetti storms, scattering.
Right there In that moment, I loved you.
You with your eyes closed against the room,
As if you could make that horn just be.
I am a puertorriquena
spic in foreign tongue
I brought the cockroaches to new york
and ruined chicago slums
the Caribbean’s footless black oyster
sucking on neighboring juice
I drink ron all day and
lace these veins with poppy tea
I prostitute for rice and beans
yeah—I eat government cheese
a true patriot to my red white and blue?
I broke my ingles long ago
and blew america up
and like a conch-shelled demon
my legs parted
one foot in the gringolandia sand
in the wet crotch
of my old
RIVER SILK: A SONG FOR MARIA
She was mined from the mouths of worms,
then crated cross oceans to Paterson, that bustling city where she plaited
her mother's hair, and her father's skin shone between the shadows
of the Royal Machine Shop. In her bobby socks and poodle skirts,
she was just a young girl reeling in the dream of cornsilk.
All she knew breathed in Paterson's gills, the worlds between PS 18
and the 17th Street
kitchen, Meyers Brothers and the pulp of rotting marigolds on neighbor's
She grew to understand power plants and fish weirs, a city's promises
and the legs of a father's labor. She read a rivertown's desire,
once prehistoric and big as God, now skeletal,
its ribs surrounding a whole city of dollar stores.
Long gone are the ship odors of jasmine. Now it's the pulse of car horns
and chickenwire that greet her, the tricks of a church spires' reach,
the wintergreen songs of silk wrapped around women's throats.
But still she tells the world of Paterson's sweetwaters, new immigrants
their children that rise then fall and rise again, and those faces,
like her Papa's, the old Societa.
On the days she is not boro or back bay or northwest bend,
the hours she is the quiet New Jersey drought, she stays put,
near home, weaving ribbons. She is the lips of the Passaic, weaving
stone to lowland swamp, but words are not all she looms in that bustling
Find her in drainage ditches, in the wet tongues of Clifton's suburban
near Spruce Street or Ward, floating down Pennington Park, a lined paper
winding, climbing, navigating the dead to safety. I swear that if you
all you have to do is knock on leaning oaks, or smoke out of a cave.
Her words wings in the underworld that is the gut. If you look close,
it is love's fibers she threads, wide and emergent with all her strokes,
dancing in rooms reserved for slowness. Kneel, go ahead, just kneel
to the ground, listen close to the Passaic passing by
on the errand of her heart.
In early 1994, Jane Alberdeston Coralin,
poet and fiction writer, ventured into It's Your Mug. Once inside those
brick walls, she learned about herself as an Afro-Latina, and a poet.
She will always cherish her membership in that vibrant and vital African-American
poetry community, whose reach continues to span the coastlines. Coralin
is a professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico and is working
on a children's book.
Published in Volume
10:2, Spring 2009.
Read more by this author:
Coralin on Reetika Vazirani: Profiles Issue