If Into Love The Image Burdens

Gordon Parks Rally
Gordon Parks, Black Muslim Rally, Harlem, 1963


If Into Love The Image Burdens

by Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka



The front of the head

is the scarred cranium. The daisy

night, alone with its mills. Grumbling

through history, with its nest

of sorrow. I felt lost

and alone. The windows

sat on the street and smoked

in dangling winter. To autumn

from spring, summer’s questions

paths, present to the head

and fingers. The shelf. The

rainbow. Cold knuckles rub against

a window. The rug. The flame. A woman

kneels against the sill. Each figure

halves silence. Each equation

sprinkles light.


Grey hats and eyes

for the photographed

trees. Grey stones and limbs

and a herd of me’s.


Past, perfect.


Each correct color

not in nature, makes

us weep. Each inexpressible

idea. The fog lifts. The fog

lifts. Now falls. The fog



And nothing is done, or complete. No person

loved, or made better or beautiful. Came here

lied to, leave


the same. Dead boned talk

of history. Grandfathers skid

down a ramp of the night. Flame

for his talk, if it twists

like light on leaves.


Out past the fingers.

Out past the eyes.



Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka, The Dead Lecturer, Grove Press, 1964


Amiri Baraka (1934 – 2014)

Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal

Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal, Newark, ca. 1967



The New World


The sun is folding, cars stall and rise
beyond the window. The workmen leave
the street to the bums and painters’ wives
pushing their babies home. Those who realize
how fitful and indecent consciousness is
stare solemnly out on the emptying street.
The mourners and soft singers. The liars,
and seekers after ridiculous righteousness. All
my doubles, and friends, whose mistakes cannot
be duplicated by machines, and this is all of our
arrogance. Being broke or broken, dribbling
at the eyes. Wasted lyricists, and men
who have seen their dreams come true, only seconds
after they knew those dreams to be horrible conceits
and plastic fantasies of gesture and extension,
shoulders, hair and tongues distributing misinformation
about the nature of understanding. No one is that simple
or priggish, to be alone out of spite and grown strong
in its practice, mystics in two-pants suits. Our style,
and discipline, controlling the method of knowledge.
Beatniks, like Bohemians, go calmly out of style. And boys
are dying in Mexico, who did not get the word.
The lateness of their fabrication: mark their holes
with filthy needles. The lust of the world. This will not
be news. The simple damning lust,
                                       float flat magic in low changing
                                       evenings. Shiver your hands
                                       in dance. Empty all of me for
                                       knowing, and will the danger
                                       of identification,


                           Let me sit and go blind in my dreaming
                           and be that dream in purpose and device.


                           A fantasy of defeat, a strong strong man
                           older, but no wiser than the defect of love.
From Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961-1995 (New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1995)

Hôtel Transylvanie

Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, 1571, Kimbell Art Museum



Hôtel Transylvanie

by Frank O’Hara



Shall we win at love or shall we lose
————————————————————can it be
that hurting and being hurt is a trick forcing the love
we want to appear, that the hurt is a card
and is it black? is it red? is it a paper, dry of tears
chevalier, change your expression! the wind is sweeping over
the gaming tables ruffling the cards/they are black and red
like a Futurist torture and how do you know it isn’t always there
waiting while doubt is the father that has you kidnapped by friends

———yet you will always live in a jealous society of accident
you will never know how beautiful you are or how beautiful
the other is, you will continue to refuse to die for yourself
you will continue to sing on trying to cheer everyone up
and the will know as the listen with excessive pleasure that you’re dead
———and they will not mind that they have let you entertain
at the expense of the only thing you want in the world/you are amusing
as a game is amusing when someone is forced to lose as in a game I must

——————————————oh hôtel, you should be merely a bed
surrounded by walls where two souls meet and do nothing but breathe
breathe in breathe out fuse illuminate confuse stick dissemble
but not as cheaters at cards have something to win/you have only to be
as you are being, as you must be, as you always are, as you shall be forever
no matter what fate deals you or the imagination discards like a tyrant
as the drums descend and summon the hatchet over the tinseled realities

you know that I am not here to fool around, that I must win or die
I expect you to do everything because it is of no consequence/no duel
you must rig the deck you must make me win at whatever cost to the reputation
of the establishment/sublime moment of dishonest hope/I must win
for if the floods of tears arrive they will wash it all away
—————————————————————————————and then
you will know what it is to want something, but you may not be allowed
to die as I have died, you may only be allowed to drift downstream
to another body of inimical attractions for which you will substitute/distrust
and I will have had my revenge on the black bitch of my nature which you
———————————————love as I have never loved myself
but I hold on/I am lyrical to a fault/I do not despair being too foolish
where will you find me, projective verse, since I will be gone?
for six seconds of your beautiful face I will sell the hotel and commit
an uninteresting suicide in Louisiana where it will take them a long time
to know who I am/why I came there/what and why I am and made to happen



“Hotel Transylvanie”, The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, Alfred A. Knopf, 1995


Eight of Hearts, with jottings by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
(One of the twenty-seven playing cards found with the unfinished manuscript of
Les Rêveries d’un promeneur solitaire at the death of Rousseau in 1778.)

Where We Live

from Boring Postcards U.S.A., Martin Parr, Phaidon Press 2004



Where We Live

By Michael Dickman


                     For John Guare




I used to live

in a mother now I live

in a sunflower


Blinded by the silverware


Blinded by the refrigerator


I sit on a sidewalk

in the sunflower and its yellow



The light of  the world

beads up on one perfect

green leaf


It scribbles its name on every living thing then erases it so what’s left is more of a whisper than a mother


Here it’s spring


Over and over and over again



I used to live

in a cloud now I live

in a crow


It’s tiny and crippled in there but I can find my way to the bathroom in the dark if   I need to


All the windows

in the crow are left open

and let the clouds in


Back in


They float past my bed and have nothing to say


Hello it’s nice to meet you!


From a telephone pole

tongues slide out singing

welcome home


Welcome home they sing



I used to live

in a tree now I live

in a king


He waves his arms in front of   him and endless migrations of   birds disappear into his coat


I like to sit up inside

his crown eating sandwiches

and watching tv


Hills shake in the distance when he shuffles his feet

Floods when he snaps his fingers


I bow inside his brow and the afternoon stretches out

Orders more sandwiches


And sells the slaves


and sets the slaves free


and sells the slaves




“Where We Live” appears in Poetry (December 2013).


Michael Dickman, a 2009 Hodder Fellow, is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts. Dickman was born and raised in the Lents neighborhood of Portland Oregon. He has received fellowships from the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Vermont Studio Center, and he won the 2008 Narrative Prize. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, Field, Tin House, Narrative Magazine and others.   



Fugitivity is immanent to the thing but is manifest transversally

Malick Sidibé, Portrait de Mselle Kanté, 1965



Fugitivity is immanent to the thing but is manifest transversally

by Fred Moten




between the object and the floor
the couch is a pedestal and a shawl
and just woke up her hair. she never


ever leaves the floating other house
but through some stories they call.


later that was her name the collaborator


of things shine in the picture. hand


flew off her early hair though held
by flowers. later her name was grete.


her hair feels angles by flowers that


before her name was shori the
penetrator in the history of no décor.


the station agent intimate with tight
spaces refuse to hit back or be carried.


later her name was danielle goldman


and his serene highness thierry henry.


her head is cut off by a shadow of primary


folded streets she harrass with enjoyment.
later her name is piet. she come from cubie


with the whole club economy in her hand.
when she reclines her head is lifted


by a turn, someone’s arm they left there.
later her name was elouise. watch her


move into the story she still move


and tear shit up. always a pleasure the banned
deep brown of faces in the otherwise
whack. the cruel disposed won’t stand


still. apparatus tear shit up and
always. you see they can’t get off when


they get off. some stateless folks
spurn the pleasure they are driven


to be and strive against. man, hit me again.
Fred Moten is a poet, literary critic, and professor of English and African American Studies at Duke University. He is author of Arkansas (Pressed Wafer), In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press), I ran from it but was still in it. (Cusp Books), Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works) and B Jenkins (Duke University Press). His latest collection of essays with Stefano Harney is, the undercommons, (Minor Composition, 2013). “Fugitivity is immanent…” is published in Hughson’s Tavern, (Leon Works, 2008).

Theme of Farewell

[no title] 1999 by Jannis Kounellis born 1936

[no title] 1999 by Jannis Kounellis born 1936
[no title] 1999 by Jannis Kounellis born 1936
[no title] 1999 by Jannis Kounellis born 1936
[no title] 1999 by Jannis Kounellis born 1936
Jannis Kounellis, [no title, Series 99], 1999


from Theme of Farewell

by Milo de Angelis

translated by Susan Stewart and Patrizio Ceccagnoli


In you all deaths gather, all
the broken glasses, the sere pages, the derangements
of thought, they gather in you, guilty
of all deaths, incomplete and guilty,
in the wake of every mother, in your wake,
motionless. They gather there, in your
weak hands. The apples of this market are death,
these poems retreat into their grammar,
in the hotel room, in the hut
of what does not join, souls without rest,
aged lips, bark ripped from the trunk.
They are dead. They gather there. They failed,
the operation failed, they failed.


The place was motionless, the word obscure. That was
the place we agreed on. Goodbye, memory of the sparkling
nights, goodbye, big smile, the place was there.
To breathe was a darkness shutters had made, a primitive state.
Silence and desert were switching positions and we
were talking to a lamp. The place was that one. The trolleys
rarely passed. Venus was returning to her hut.
Out of the warrior throat, episodes broke free. We didn’t
say anything more. The place was that one. It was there
that you were dying.
Professor Susan Stewart has published new bilingual translations of Italian poet Milo de Angelis (with Patrizio Ceccagnoli) at the University of Chicago Press: Theme of Farewell and After Poems, 2013.

For the Confederate Dead

Black Civil War Soldiers

District of Columbia. Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, ca. 1864, [detail] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.



For the Confederate Dead

Kevin Young


I go with the team also.





These are the last days

my television says. Tornadoes, more

rain, overcast, a chance


of sun but I do not

trust weathermen,

never have. In my fridge only


the milk makes sense—

expires. No one, much less

my parents, can tell me why


my middle name is Lowell,

and from my table

across from the Confederate


Monument to the dead (that pale

finger bone) a plaque

declares war—not Civil,


or Between

the States, but for Southern

Independence. In this café, below sea-


and eye-level a mural runs

the wall, flaking, a plantation

scene most do not see—


it’s too much

around the knees, height

of a child. In its fields Negroes bend


to pick the endless white.

In livery a few drive carriages

like slaves, whipping the horses, faces


blank and peeling. The old hotel

lobby this once was no longer

welcomes guests—maroon ledger,


bellboys gone but

for this. Like an inheritance

the owner found it


stripping hundred years

(at least) of paint

and plaster. More leaves each day.


In my movie there are no

horses, no heroes,

only draftees fleeing


into the pines, some few

who survive, gravely

wounded, lying


burrowed beneath the dead—

silent until the enemy

bayonets what is believed


to be the last

of the breathing. It is getting later.

We prepare


for wars no longer

there. The weather

inevitable, unusual—


more this time of year

than anyone ever seed. The earth

shudders, the air—


if I did not know

better, I would think

we were living all along


a fault. How late

it has gotten…

Forget the weatherman


whose maps move, blink,

but stay crossed

with lines none has seen. Race


instead against the almost

rain, digging beside the monument

(that giant anchor)


till we strike

water, sweat

fighting the sleepwalking air.






from Kevin Young, For the Confederate Dead, Knopf, 2007.


On October 9th, 2013, at 4:30pm Kevin Young gave a reading of recent and forthcoming work in McCosh 40. On October 10th the Intersections Working Group in the Department of English and the Center for African American Studies present Kevin Young in conversation with Brent Edwards of Columbia University. The discussion, New Direction in Jazz Studies: Race, Music, Poetics & Interdisciplinary Studies at the Crossroads will be held at 4:30pm in 100 Jones Hall.

Maximus to Gloucester

Gloucester Harbor

Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts, ca. 1940, Boston Public Library, Print Department


Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]

Charles Olson



I come back to the geography of it,

the land falling off to the left

where my father shot his scabby golf

and the rest of us played baseball

into the summer darkness until no flies

could be seen and we came home

to our various piazzas where the women



To the left the land fell to the city,

to the right, it fell to the sea


I was so young my first memory

is of a tent spread to feed lobsters

to Rexall conventioneers, and my father,

a man for kicks, came out of the tent roaring

with a bread-knife in his teeth to take care of

the druggist they’d told him had made a pass at

my mother, she laughing, so sure, as round

as her face, Hines pink and apple,

under one of those frame hats women then


This, is no bare incoming

of novel abstract form, this


is no welter or the forms

of those events, this,


Greeks, is the stopping

of the battle


It is the imposing

of all those antecedent predecessions, the precessions


of me, the generation of those facts

which are my words, it is coming


from all that I no longer am, yet am,

the slow westward motion of


more than I am


There is no strict personal order


for my inheritance.


No Greek will be able


to discriminate my body.


An American


is a complex of occasions,


themselves a geometry


of spatial nature.


I have this sense,


that I am one


with my skin


Plus this—plus this:


that forever the geography


which leans in


on me I compell


backwards I compell Gloucester


to yield, to






is this




Charles Olson, “Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]” from The Maximus Poems, The University of California Press, 1985. A remarkable film from 1966 showing Olson reading this poem at his home in Gloucester can be viewed here.

One Word More

Raphael Three Graces

Raphael, Studio per le tre grazie della farnesina, (red chalk over stylus) ca. 1518



One Word More

by Robert Browning





There they are, my fifty men and women
Naming me the fifty poems finished!
Take them, Love, the book and me together;
Where the heart lies, let the brain lie also.


Rafael made a century of sonnets,
Made and wrote them in a certain volume
Dinted with the silver-pointed pencil
Else he only used to draw Madonnas;
These, the world might view–but one, the volume.
Who that one, you ask? Your heart instructs you.
Did she live and love it all her lifetime?
Did she drop, his lady of the sonnets,
Die, and let it drop beside her pillow
Where it lay in place of Rafael’s glory,
Rafael’s cheek so duteous and so loving–
Cheek, the world was wont to hail a painter’s,
Rafael’s cheek, her love had turned a poet’s?


You and I would rather read that volume
(Taken to his beating bosom by it),
Lean and list the bosom-beats of Rafael,
Would we not? than wonder at Madonnas–
Her, San Sisto names, and Her, Foligno,
Her, that visits Florence in a vision,
Her, that’s left with lilies in the Louvre–
Seen by us and all the world in circle.


You and I will never read that volume.
Guido Reni, like his own eye’s apple,
Guarded long the treasure-book and loved it.
Guido Reni dying, all Bologna
Cried, and the world cried too, ‘Ours, the treasure!’
Suddenly, as rare things will, it vanished.


Dante once prepared to paint an angel:
Whom to please? You whisper ‘Beatrice.’
While he mused and traced it and retraced it
(Peradventure with a pen corroded
Still by drops of that hot ink he dipped for,
When, his left-hand i’ the hair o’ the wicked,
Back he held the brow and pricked its stigma,
Bit into the live man’s flesh for parchment,
Loosed him, laughed to see the writing rankle,
Let the wretch go festering through Florence)–
Dante, who loved well because he hated,
Hated wickedness that hinders loving,
Dante, standing, studying his angel,–
In there broke the folk of his Inferno.
Says he–‘Certain people of importance’
(Such he gave his daily dreadful line to)
‘Entered and would seize, forsooth, the poet.’
Says the poet–‘Then I stopped my painting.’


You and I would rather see that angel,
Painted by the tenderness of Dante,
Would we not?–than read a fresh Inferno.


You and I will never see that picture.
While he mused on love and Beatrice,
While he softened o’er his outlined angel,
In they broke, those ‘people of importance’:
We and Bice bear the loss forever.


What of Rafael’s sonnets, Dante’s picture?
This: no artist lives and loves, that longs not
Once, and only once, and for one only,
(Ah, the prize!) to find his love a language
Fit and fair and simple and sufficient–
Using nature that’s an art to others,
Not, this one time, art that’s turned his nature.
Ay, of all the artists living, loving,
None but would forego his proper dowry,–
Does he paint? he fain would write a poem,
Does he write? he fain would paint a picture,–
Put to proof art alien to the artist’s,
Once, and only once, and for one only,
So to be the man and leave the artist,
Gain the man’s joy, miss the artist’s sorrow.


Wherefore? Heaven’s gift takes earth’s abatement!
He who smites the rock and spreads the water,
Bidding drink and live a crowd beneath him,
Even he, the minute makes immortal,
Proves, perchance, but mortal in the minute,
Desecrates, belike, the deed in doing.
While he smites, how can he but remember,
So he smote before, in such a peril,
When they stood and mocked–‘Shall smiting help us?’
When they drank and sneered–‘A stroke is easy!’
When they wiped their mouths and went their journey,
Throwing him for thanks–‘But drought was pleasant.’
Thus old memories mar the actual triumph;
Thus the doing savors of disrelish;
Thus achievement lacks a gracious somewhat;
O’er-importuned brows becloud the mandate,
Carelessness or consciousness–the gesture.
For he bears an ancient wrong about him,
Sees and knows again those phalanxed faces,
Hears, yet one time more, the ‘customed prelude–
‘How shouldst thou, of all men, smite, and save us?’
Guesses what is like to prove the sequel–
‘Egypt’s flesh-pots –nay, the drought was better.’


Oh, the crowd must have emphatic warrant!
Theirs, the Sinai-forhead’s cloven brilliance,
Right-arm’s rod-sweep, tongue’s imperial fiat.
Never dares the man put off the prophet.


Did he love one face from out the thousands,
(Were she Jethro’s daughter, white and wifely,
Were she but the AEthiopian bondslave),
He would envy yon dumb, patient camel,
Keeping a reserve of scanty water
Meant to save his own life in the desert;
Ready in the desert to deliver
(Kneeling down to let his breast be opened)
Hoard and life together for his mistress.


I shall never, in the years remaining,
Paint you pictures, no, nor carve you statues.
Make you music that should all-express me;
So it seems; I stand on my attainment.
This of verse alone, one life allows me;
Verse and nothing else have I to give you;
Other heights in other lives, God willing;
All the gifts from all the heights, your own, Love.


Yet a semblance of resource avails us–
Shade so finely touched, love’s sense must seize it.
Take these lines, look lovingly and nearly,
Lines I write the first time and the last time.
He who works in fresco steals a hair-brush,
Curbs the liberal hand, subservient proudly,
Cramps his spirit, crowds its all in little,
Makes a strange art of an art familiar,
Fills his lady’s missal-marge with flowerets,
He who blows through bronze may breathe through silver,
Fitly serenade a slumbrous princess.
He who writes, may write for once as I do.


Love, you saw me gather men and women,
Live or dead or fashioned by my fancy,
Enter each and all, and use their service,
Speak from every mouth,–the speech, a poem.
Hardly shall I tell my joys and sorrows,
Hopes and fears, belief and disbelieving:
I am mine and yours–the rest be all men’s,
Karshish, Cleon, Norbert, and the fifty.
Let me speak this once in my true person,
Not as Lippo, Roland, or Andrea,
Though the fruit of speech be just this sentence:
Pray you, look on these my men and women,
Take and keep my fifty poems finished;
Where my heart lies, let my brain lie also!
Poor the speech; be how I speak, for all things.


Not but that you know me! Lo, the moon’s self!
Here in London, yonder late in Florence,
Still we find her face, the thrice-transfigured.
Curving on a sky imbrued with color,
Drifted over Fiesole by twilight,
Came she, our new crescent of a hair’s-breadth.
Full she flared it, lamping Samminiato,
Rounder ‘twixt the cypresses and rounder,
Perfect till the nightingales applauded.
Now, a piece of her old self, impoverished,
Hard to greet, she traverses the house-roofs,
Hurries with unhandsome thrift of silver,
Goes dispiritedly, glad to finish.


What, there’s nothing in the moon noteworthy?
Nay: for if that moon could love a mortal,
Use, to charm him (so to fit a fancy),
All her magic (’tis the old sweet mythos),
She would turn a new side to her mortal,
Side unseen of herdsman, huntsman, steersman,–
Blank to Zoroaster on his terrace,
Blind to Galileo on his turret.
Dumb to Homer, dumb to Keats –him, even!
Think, the wonder of the moonstruck mortal–
When she turns round, comes again in heaven,
Opens out anew for worse or better!
Proves she like some portent of an iceberg
Swimming full upon the ship it founders,
Hungry with huge teeth of splintered crystals?
Proves she as the paved work of a sapphire,
Seen by Moses when he climbed the mountain?
Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu
Climbed and saw the very God, the Highest,
Stand upon the paved work of a sapphire.
Like the bodied heaven in his clearness
Shone the stone, the sapphire of that paved work,
When they ate and drank and saw God also!


What were seen? None knows, none ever will know.
Only this is sure–the sight were other,
Not the moon’s same side, born late in Florence,
Dying now impoverished here in London.
God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures
Boasts two soul-sides, one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her.


This I say of me, but think of you, Love!
This to you–yourself my moon of poets!
Ah, but that’s the world’s side, there’s the wonder,
Thus they see you, praise you, think they know you!
There, in turn I stand with them and praise you–
Out of my own self, I dare to phrase it.
But the best is when I glide from out them,
Cross a step or two of dubious twilight,
Come out on the other side, the novel
Silent silver lights and darks undreamed of,
Where I hush and bless myself with silence.


Oh, their Rafael of the dear Madonnas,
Oh, their Dante of the dread Inferno,
Wrote one song–and in my brain I sing it,
Drew one angel–borne, see, on my bosom!



Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Portrait of Browning, 1855