EXORCISM For Edgar Alan Poe The drunk see into the gloom, hear voices; the drunk blues man knows the mist of unsettled spirits, he shouts loudly at the way his skin pimples as if a soft cold wind has stirred in this oven of a Pittsburg tenement; the dead are drawn to the promise of whiskey. How casual he is after sweaty wrestling with the beast; how calmly he walks away after—as if he has done this before, the dance of bodies hurled against walls—it is not easy to kill a man with your hands they will fight for everything to live. Any child who sees the bloated body of a familiar spirit, even once, will be marked for life—not a curse but a queer anointing, as if the dead are always with us. She knows that you can wrestle the dead, silence them with a body alert to its every muscle, she learns. The “Ship of Zion” fills the room. So many ships have held the unsettled dreams of black folk. Now the “Ship of Zion” stirs some ancient gene that makes the glinting ripple of open water a trigger for tears, for memories older than reason. “The Ship of Zion” rocks against the nudge of waves, and the fear of death by drowning returns to the woman who sings in that robust voice while the spirit stares through the gloom. The drunk man will collapse eventually, all fight gone. The fighter’s body will give way, the neck’s strain, the taut press against all peace. This child will see and know. Sing, woman, sing, woman, sing! (unpublished poem) −Kwame Dawes
Published on Sep 10, 2011
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