Whispers and prayers
Could the whisperer have been a foreigner? The one suggesting
To this young White Man enter a historic House of Worship
Calmly kill Black people. And so he did kill nine Black People
My friend was searching for an international conspiracy
Those meant to disturb America—fanatics from the East
Fanatics from the West?
How would Amiri Baraka claim this? No, he’d say
Only White Americans (storming fronts) could make
The Young White Man do so much harm.
And harm he did—gun a gift or was it purchased—not
Even a killer caught can tell which version of truth is
But this truth can be told of nine Black people in Bible study-
Men and women of great character. A state senator. A librarian.
A young Couple happily married. Their loving friends engaged
in their faith, in this world. One hour together. One last hour
Now awaiting glory. Were they to leave this way?
Were they to sing in heaven’s choir? We ask ourselves
In prayer, how to love those for whom love seems
Nearly useless. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
Says of the Buchanans—they are “careless people”
It is that care less ness, this disregard for love
That makes us turn to the living Christ for solace,
In prayer to find more ways to be caring people
Ones worthy to join these nine good people
Who could not rend this killer’s resolve
His desire to play the martyr and his utter
Failure to make his whispered evil matter,
In his dreamed desires—war between the races
The death of Blackness. His soul less ness
doing the Devil’s work.
Out of bodies whose blood is stronger
Than what the killer’s oath whispers
Nine Black Voices
Ellen Gallagher’s Wall Installation, Studio Museum 3/6/15
Wigs become beards
Or planets with furry rings
Oh Saturn’s waves—orange and red
Thus, carelessness with ritual leads to early deaths
The Family in perpetual slide towards oblivion
Who will lift you up
If you cannot carry the deity’s
Who will lift your beard
Or flip your wig
Each week a beauty poses
Each week her name is posted
Not once is she Aphrodite
But she could be Erzulie
We have to have to have our own
Gods * Goddesses. Our own snake handlers
And snake oil peddlers. We have to you know
Have to have our own you know pleasures in this pitch.
I know that Ebony and Jet
Were there before (prior to) Negro Digest
Negro Digest begat Black World
Hoyt Fuller understood
The importance of peddling new ideas
The symbolic staff of Black identity
In small towns in Arkansas and Mississippi
And big cities too: Atlanta, Dallas
Memphis, New Orleans
He could see these writings crashing
The Big Blank Walls.
While the wigs went from flip
To Afro and beards hung scraggly
Or furry covered like Saturn’s waves –oh mighty race men
And lanterns glowed in Kingston
Bright lights and fiery
Tremors—sequins wrestling in nets
Huge topographies of string and stance—
Made for people perilously acquainted
With the Atlantic’s token of possibilities.
Lit fires and the smoky haze
Of heavy eye shadow, moustache thin
Anxious for the gown with the
Heart shaped bodice—oh and
Tie up the white buck shoes laces --
Lotioned hands stroking the invitations
For Official Independence Day dances.
Ghana in sun rise, the empire in twilight.
ContributorPatricia Spears Jones
PATRICIA SPEARS JONES is an African-American poet, playwright, editor and activist. Her most recent book is A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems. Her work is widely anthologized. She is Poets & Writers 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize winner. She is the organizer of American Poets Congress. She has taught at Adelphi University and CUNY. She lives in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.