zondag 4 december 2011

Henry Dumas, USA (1934-1968)

Henry Dumas werd geboren op 23 juli 1934 te Sweet Home, Arkansas. Alhier bracht hij zijn vroege jeugd door en werd er naar eigen zeggen geinspireerd door de religieuse en folk tradities uit de streek. Moms Mabley & gospelmuziek zag hij als belangrijke invloeden op hem alswel op zijn werk.

Op zijn tiende verhuisde het gezin naar Harlem, alwaar hij de publieke scholen doorliep en afstudeerde aan Commerce High School in 1953. Begon datzelfde jaar aan City College, maar verliet de school om zich aan te melden bij de luchtmacht. Gedurende zijn verblijf in de luchtmacht blijft hij metr de religie bezig en geeft les aan een zondagsschool. Verbleef ook een jaar op het Arabisch schiereiland waar hij een interesse ontwikkelde voor de taal, mythologie en cultuur.

Op 24 september 1955 trouwt hij met Loretta Ponton en ze krijgen twee zoons (1958 - 1962) Nadat hij uit dienst kwam begon hij te studeren aan Rutgers University maar zou zijn graad niet behalen. Dumas was tevens actief binnen burgerrechtenorganisaties & humanitaire bewegingen. Waaronder het organiseren van transporten met voedsel en kleding naar demonstranten in Mississippi & Tennessee.

In 1967 begon hij als leraar aan Southern Illinois University. Hier ontmoette hij Eugene Raymond, die een grote rol zou spelen in zijn literaire carriere. Vooral na zijn dood. Ze lazen vaak poëzie voor op literaire bijeenkomsten en stimuleerde elkaar veelvuldig, tot een hoge productie. Dit is dan ook zonder enige twijfel de meest productieve periode uit Dumas zijn schrijversschap. Zo schreef hij stapels met gedichten, korte verhalen en was hij begonnen aan zijn Roman "Jonoah and the green stone"

Op 23 mei 1968 werd hij per ongeluk doodgeschoten door eeen politieagent te New York.

Al zijn werk werd Postuum gepubliceerd.

1974 Ark of Bones & other stories
1974 Play Ebony, Play Ivory - a collection of poetry
1988 Goodbye Sweetwater (stories)
1989 Knees of a Natural Man: The selected poetry of Henry Dumas

bron: The oxford companion to African American Literature (2001)

Kef 12

Take up the blood from the grass, sun.
Take it up.
These people do not thirst for it.
Take up the insect children that play in
the grass, sun.
Take them away.
These people are sick of them.
Take down the long slender reeds, sun.
Cut them down.
These people cannot make flutes any longer.
Now sun, come closer to the earth!
Even closer than that.
Closer. Now, sun.
Take away the shape from the metal, sun.
They are like stone, these people.
Now make them lava.


Kef 21

First there was the earth in my mouth. It was there like a running stream, the July fever sweating the delirium of August, and the green buckling under the sun. The taste of sick dust ran in the currents of saliva which I heaved up and tried to picture when all the people would curse their own stinking guts and die. No. I am not wishing that everyone should die. Nor am I wishing that everyone should be still. Only I am squeezing out the steam in me.


Kef 24

lay sixteen bales down in front on the plank
let me set and bay at the houndog moon
lay sixteen bales down of the cotton flank
pray with me brothers that the pink
boss dont sweat me too soon
beat my leg in a round nigger peg
lord have mercy on my black pole
lay sixteen bales in the even row
let me sweat and cuss my roustabout tune
lord have mercy on my shrinkin back
let me go with the jesus mule
lay sixteen bales for the warp and loom
beat a nigger down and bury his soul
boss dont sweat me too soon
pray with me brothers that I hold my cool
lord have mercy on this long black leg
let me ride on the jesus mule
lay sixteen bales of white fuzz down
lay sixteen tales of how I got around
lord have mercy on this sweat and stink
lord have mercy
lay sixteen bales
pray brothers
beat down
lord have
let me
lord lord
the houndog moon
howl jesus,


Knees of a Natural Man

for Jay Wright

my ole man took me to the fulton fish market
we walk around in the guts and the scales

my ole man show me a dead fish, eyes like throat spit
he say “you hongry boy?” i say “naw, not yet”

my ole man show me how to pick the leavings
he say people throw away fish that not rotten

we scaling on our knees back uptown on lenox
sold five fish, keepin one for the pot

my ole man copped a bottle of wine
he say, “boy, build me a fire out in the lot”

backyard cat climbin up my leg for fish
i make a fire in the ash can

my ole man come when he smell fish
frank williams is with him, they got wine

my ole man say “the boy cotch the big one”
he tell big lie and slap me on the head

i give the guts to the cat and take me some wine
we walk around the sparks like we in hell

my ole man is laughin and coughin up wine
he say “you hongry boy” i say “naw, not yet”

next time i go to fulton fish market
first thing i do is take a long drink of wine


Love Song

I have to adore the earth:

The wind must have heard
your voice once.
It echoes and sings like you.

The soil must have tasted
you once.
It is laden with your scent.

The trees honor you
in gold
and blush when you pass.

I know why the north country
is frozen.
It has been trying to preserve
your memory.

I know why the desert
burns with fever.
It was wept too long without you.

On hands and knees,
the ocean begs up the beach,
and falls at your feet.

I have to adore
the mirror of the earth.
You have taught her well
how to be beautiful.



Vodu green clinching his waist,
obi purple ringing his neck,
Shango, God of the spirits,
whispering in his ear,
thunderlight stabbing the island
of blood rising from his skull.

Mojo bone in his fist
strikes the sun from his eye.
Iron claw makes his wrist.
He recalls the rites of strength
carved upon his chest.
Black flame, like tongues of glass,
ripples beneath a river of sweat.

Strike the island!
Strike the sun!
Strike the eye of evil!
Strike the guilty one!

No power can stay the mojo
when the obi is purple
and the vodu is green
and Shango is whispering,
Bathe me in blood.
I am not clean.


Son of Msippi

from Msippi I grew.
(Bare walk and cane stalk
make a hungry belly talk.)
from the river of death.
(Walk bare and stalk cane
make a hungry belly talk.)

from Msippi I grew.
from the river of pain.

Out of the long red earth dipping, rising,
spreading out in deltas and plains,

out of the strong black earth turning
over by the iron plough,

out of the swamp green earth dripping
with moss and snakes,

out of the loins of the leveed lands
muscling its American vein:
the great Father of Waters,
I grew
beside the prickly boll of white,
beside the bone-filled Mississippi
rolling on and on,
breaking over,
cutting off,
ignoring my bleeding fingers.

Bare stalk and sun walk
I hear a boll-weevil talk
cause I grew
beside the ox and the bow,
beside the rock church and the shack row,
beside the fox and the crow,
beside the melons and maize,
beside the hound dog,
beside the pink hog,
dog pissing
in the Mississippi
rolling on and on,
ignoring the colored coat I spun
of cotton fibers.

Cane-sweat river-boat
nigger-bone floating.

Up from Msippi
I grew,
wailing a song with every strain.

Woman gone woe man too
baby cry rent-pause daddy flew.


The Zebra Goes Wild Where the Sidewalk Ends

Neon stripes tighten my wall
where my crayon landlord hangs
from a bent nail.

My black father sits crooked
in the kitchen
drunk on Jesus’ blood turned
to cheap wine.

In his tremor he curses
the landlord who grins
from inside the rent book.

My father’s eyes are
bolls of cotton.

He sits upon the landlord’s
operating table,
the needle of the nation
sucking his soul.

Chains of light race over
my stricken city.
Glittering web spun by
the white widow spider.

I see this wild arena
where we are harnessed
by alien electric shadows.

Even when the sun washes
the debris
I will recall my landlord
hanging in my room
and my father moaning in
Jesus’ tomb.

In America all zebras
are in the zoo.

I hear the piston bark
and ibm spark:
let us program rabies.
the madness is foaming now.

No wild zebras roam the American plain.
The mad dogs are running.
The African zebra is gone into the dust.

I see the shadow thieves coming
and my father on the specimen table.


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