Monday, January 3, 2022

Hues

 


 
Hues
 
 
 He was just 
 
one of too many
born black for the factory
taught to make salt
 
into roses and clocks, just
a sole to spare the parade marshal's foot,
a board for the floor, another pot
 
of coffee for the landlord
but there was something
he got from the moon; that weary
 
knife-smile, a jones for books and
bitter truth, a taste of jazz
in his blood, and so

he became instead
the blister on the heel, the knot
in the plank, the spider in the cream,

the argument for faces.
 
 
 
 
January 2022
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 posted for 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note: The photo above is a snapshot of Hughes with his good friend and fellow activist, Louise Thompson Patterson, both thorns in the side of contemporary white/status quo culture as members of the Communist Party and prime movers in the Harlem Renaissance.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Images: The Shoemaker,  1945, © Jacob Lawrence   Fair Use
Louise Thompson and Langston Hughes, shipboard, circa 1915-1925  Public Domain

 
 
 
 
 

27 comments:

  1. Oh my, what you've done here pleases me no end. You've honored our source poet by making his life and his energy vivid and vital and uncomfortable for those he meant to be uncomfortable for. The sequence of the sole (!), the plank and the coffee is used to devastating effect here, with the chasm between his "place" as assigned by those who didn't even see him as a man, and his bold affirmation of himself through his words and his life. I am so proud of what you have done here, Joy. I am thrilled that my little word list was turned, in your hands, into this anthem.

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    1. Btw, I was sure that must be a Diego Rivera at the top, but no.

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    2. No, but the style is very similar--I wanted to use a black artist. Some info: "Jacob Armstead Lawrence (September 7, 1917 – June 9, 2000) was an American painter known for his portrayal of African-American historical subjects and contemporary life. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism", although by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem.[1] He brought the African-American experience to life using blacks and browns juxtaposed with vivid colors. He also taught and spent 16 years as a professor at the University of Washington.

      Lawrence is among the best known twentieth-century African-American painters, known for his modernist illustrations of everyday life as well as narratives of African-American history and historical figures. At the age of 23 he gained national recognition with his 60-panel The Migration Series, which depicted the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. Lawrence's works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums.. His 1947 painting The Builders hangs in the White House." ~wikipedia

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    3. Thanks for this, Joy. You know that I love to learn about artists.

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  2. "But there was something he got from the moon: that weary knife-smile". So good, Joy.

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  3. I like the parallels of what he became versus his birth destiny

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  4. love this poem joy, love that title, clever and appropriate. love all the sound echoes, pot and got, "black for the factory", so on and so forth, great rhythm, my head was bobbung as i read. this poem is high craft. and of course the subject matter, we need more of this in the world. i haven't read hughes in a very long time, adding him to my list. shay does a really good job on these word lists, as well as showcasing vital and important poets. enjoyed this very much joy... and happy new year =)

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    1. Thanks, phillip. Yeah, Shay makes me look these people up and remind myself about them, or discover them in some cases. I had completely forgotten Hughes was a Communist back when McCarthyism was in its infancy. Thanks as always for reading, for getting it, and for your kind words.

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  6. Absolutely wonderful Joy! From the title to the end. I love how it circles round from what the world dished out to what he gave the world. This is an amazing ode' to Hughes and I love the art you chose along with his wonderful photo!

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  7. Joy, you gave me goosebumps reading this one. Speechless!

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  8. This is haunting. I'm caught by the image of faces crowding from the floor (and it chimes with a sculpture I saw once of a giant foot walking on a shadow composed of tiny figures).

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    1. Thanks, Chrissa. Very much what I was going for.

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  9. Another exquisite poem, Hedgewitch (I still feel I need permission before I call you Joy!), so evocative and such vivid turns of phrase. Love these:

    "that weary knife-smile"

    "a jones for books and bitter truth"

    "a taste of jazz in his blood"

    But the whole thing is *kisses fingers*

    <3

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    1. Thank you, Sunra. Of course you can call me by my name! I left a comment at your place giving you "permission"--if there's something more personal than your screen name which you like to be called, please let me know. And again, thanks so much for your insightful and generous comments.

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  10. So much gets lost - trampled - underfoot, downtrodden and scattered to history, but -- that delightful, undeniable "but" -- the poem makes jazz of that and from sole-dirt, "the argument for faces" - a stunning triumphal line. Great homage to Hughes and how to distill poetry out of bad whiskey.

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    1. Thanks, B. Hughes and other figures in the Harlem renaissance still have a lot to say to us now about oppression and class struggle. Because it's only gotten worse. Appreciate your comments and insight, as always.

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  11. Oh, my what a powerful, truthful, creative homage to Langston Hughes. You ended it with the perfect punch. Awed by your work as always.

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  12. you know, my younger son is named Langston, and the fire and toil of poetry inform him. perhaps too well - anxiety rides in and on his skin (though yet white enough to pass for not asian), as he approaches his 21st year on this 21st, I wonder - what can poets say to the world, of the world?

    Sorry for being silent. Life has its own twists, and takes words with them. I hope this year brings you peace, and if not peace, then at least creativity. ~ M

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    1. So good to hear from you , Michael. I was thinking about you just last night.In these times when there is radio silence as it were, from someone you care about, you assume the worst. I understand well about life robbing art, and that void you can't seem to pull anything from. I hope this new year straightens out your twists and sees nothing but health and peace for you and yours.Thanks so much for stopping by.

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    2. art's absence a combo of a return to work (that odd invention to trade life's waking hours for shekels for a roof over life's sleeping hours), and another's unexpected return. I suppose one day the muse may also deign to return. Until then, the occasional drive-by comment will have to suffice - and I'm glad you've been writing ~

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    3. Just glad you're well, friend,and not experiencing the dubious mercies of our healthcare system.Comments are just icing the cake. The muse will return when she needs to, or so I've found.

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    4. ya, no health issues for the nonce. other than too many lbs. what they say is true. a pound a year (or more) once the kids are born. so that's, um, more than I have fingers and toes. and she'll return, or won't, for as we slide further into the 6th great extinction, what's the loss of one more feeble voice?

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    5. Every voice matters, just as every species matters, every habitat...to lose any one is to be diminished. But afa writing, I have had dead periods of as long as ten years, so I don;t worry anymore when I fall silent. Not that I have ten more years to waste being silent, but it is what it is. You write when you can, and read when you can't. Peace, M.

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"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats