poetry El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
1. The Lost Years
The soon-lion began, was Malcolm Little once, the man-child, soon zoot-suit hustler &
thief, soon Detroit Red snared in the U.S. of Penitentiary: like 90 goin’ north of freedom,
east of where his murdered father once sermonized the Black Train Homeward.
An incremental stealth
stranded in a hungerland of great prosperity, like every black man
who stores his hope in an unsure place—always looking for something better
than Made in Amerikkka—aware
of that which is most dangerous, of duplicity, of that which
is to be withheld & granted selectively: language
that says one thing & means
an entirely other.
He lion wait
where the freedman
with courage spitting bullets,
as complex as
revolution with the swagger of conviction,
as willful as
by any means necessary
2. Up, you mighty race; you can accomplish what you will!
The dignity of the idea, invisible, but undiminished,
our jazz & our slang—coalescing holy dervish of the inner-city blues
faced with the transparency of the outside gaze & fragmented
into component blacknesses:
Minor Al Capone in the U.S. of Negro. Prisoner no. 22843,
compressing the moan that becomes a cry that shines forth faceted light,
like a tribe of hammers striking railroad spikes
because we remembered
that we could.
He rose, renewed, renamed became
much more than there was time for him to be: Orator supreme
reborn X of black vernacular & conjugated defiant while black.
3. What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?
First minister of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam,
rising from the belly of the beast, from the mist of segregation per Elijah,
fleshing out our dreams of freedom from the hate that made hate—
an incandescent hue that purges what was love—
this liberty, this beautiful & terrible thing, this needful to man as air.
Testing fate between gravity & Allah, between how much pressure
to make a diamond, between each word, a logical Word spoken as truth,
as more militant metaphor, like lion-like brave &
like why delay anger
that must rage & exclaim & grow ancient?
Like a voiceless maelstrom of moths
seeking out our own burning, as needs must
when the devil drives.
I’ve seen a man drown in an inch of determination,
a love of self like the eventuality of a force greater than our weaknesses.
I’ve seen a man
wrecked in noon but having ridden the eddies of the sun, buried alive,
neck-deep in what only he perceives & passionately dreaming
the Black Train Homeward; the messiah, betrayed with a kiss. . .
our manhood, our living, black manhood
into the redeeming pressure of Allah & carrying the scent of things lost in the fire.
incorporated into this poem are italicized fragments by June Jordan (2nd stanza), Robert Hayden (7th & 8th stanza), T.S. Eliot (3rd subtitle) & Ossie Davis (10th stanza)
henry 7. reneau jr. writes words in fire to wake the world ablaze & illuminated by courage that empathizes with all the awful moments: a freight train bearing down with warning that blazes from the heart, like a chambered bullet exploding inadvertently.