Communion: New & Selected Poems

Communion: New & Selected Poems

by Primus St. John




A distinctive and accessible breakout collection which explores family, history, sexuality, and African-American identity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556591259
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 04/01/1999
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Though we do not believe it yet,
the interior lift is a real life, and
the intangible dreams of people have
a tangible effect on the world."

All the Way Home

The lamps hung like a lynching
In my town.
It was a dark town.
In a dark town,
Light is a ragged scar.
Fright begs that ragged scar.
It begs doorways.

I love that town.
From its lean men
I learned Emotion;
And how to hold that fine edge,
That makes us
people ...

Mrs. Blackwell's
Sold her house.
Since her husband revolved his head,
She wears bright hats
That speak to people.

B.J.'s doing time.
His children betray that time,
By the breathing it takes
To dream through windows.
Mary Lee dreams him letters;
She dreams by heart ...

Now I feel a new scar.
I've left home
And leaned so far,
I'm almost zero.

And though it's lonely,
Whatever knowing is,
It strings a long fine wire.
At night I lie awake
And listen to that wire —

    All the way home.

    Benign Neglect/West Point, Mississippi, 1970

Suppose you were dreaming about your family,
And when you woke up
You found a man named Sonny Stanley
Had just shot you (5 times),
Or justice
Lookedjust like the color your blood was running —
Running wild in the world —
But the world wouldn't see.
You read, somewhere
(I think it's the papers),
If it's a problem, Boy,
We don't have one here;
We don't ask a man to die
Like groceries babbling froth to flies.
But bleeding,
You watch your neighbors
Write away to their windows to
Hide! Hide!
"He's not there. He's not there."
The last sentence?
The last sentence is your Father
One of the windows ...
"He's not there. He's not there."

Good-bye, Johnny.

Our Lady of Congress

The opposition likes dry poems —
No storms
That are holding hands
The same way
It begins to rain
When we suspect our lives.
The answer to everything
Is a just peace
(So we elected him president),
Or better umbrellas
That are not afraid.
It is an aesthetic form
History has taken,
To adjust time to a seashell
When strong water comes.
So we go back on our lives.
Reliving all of our curves when we were worms.
Caution, inside
Never learns
No poem is listening to our
Lives —
This way,
Not even the earth.

Justice is in stones
With thirst.
Large storms live on weight
And look our way
When the seals are broken.
Water is success
Whispered to stone like slime.
What we are behind our faces
Is a crack that's leaking,
A yell that's lost its body in a shell.
There are no more words
For old Yankee faces like ours
But the luck we have left.

    American Roots: Moral Associations

1 Kinship:
Is embarrassing the wind,
Like dead black boys,
Falling down from the trees,
Then downstream —
On their knees,
Blood like,
Like a rich nation.

2 Metaphor:
Becomes humiliating,
And clean,
Ticking like a ripe machine.
Do not
Or mutilate me —
This is your future speaking.

3 The air smells so metaphysical
We have accused it —
Of smog,
And lost manhood,
Then all ritual.

4 Whoever wrote:
A view is a mountain speaking
But left the introduction
For the snow,
And accused silence
Of its soul.

5 The whole nation:
Is a stanza of blackness,
A huge white whale,
Faith in space
(Like the newspapers),
And the quiet insistence
We have peace,
And it's your world, brother.

Elephant Rock

We take place in what we believe.
I've memorized that
It's life
And that
Invisible —
If you're thinking in the dark.

Take the line we drew
Around Elephant Rock,
A beginning
That could happen
Any day
You put your thumb
That long block
And saw all neighbors
As trees.

On our side
We kept these
1. Mount up now
2. You're tenk
3. This country is your trail too

We began to see
Near this rock
What did not look right
In our books,
That presence
Was enough

Anyone who worked
Should be free
To meet himself —

We called it
Cowboys and Indians
The girls should stay home
It's safe that way.
But every day this
We'd lose time
And we'd lose.

One day, Jerry said
Believe —
Go ahead

We tried —
To keep the thin trails,
Old trees,
But there's something wrong
With America —
If you're Black
Believe —
Go ahead

These three were the most creative:
Breno Jones
He left five kids,
And a thin, incredible wife.
He was never lucky,
He just died
Jerry too,
At the feet of Elephant Rock ...

And because even this is not enough,
Something else
Over their heads
That still takes place
In America.
Old walls
Tall rocks
With that sign
I could never understand —

Customer Reviews