MAP #164 Theme: Remembering Gwendolyn Brooks

1. Miss Brooks

February 16, 1971 by Michael Brown

"I would ask nothing better than to see more clearly,

but it seems to me that no one sees more clearly."

--Merleau-Ponty, Primacy of Perception

She dresses like a school teacher,

and her spindly legs

lean at angles to the podium;

her chin points above the audience

and her voice follows her eyes,

rising and ebbing over the people

in longitudinal waves;

she wears her hair like a cap.

She touches her thumb to her tongue

and speaks through old photographs,

aged monochromes in sepia

of Chicago before he grew tall

and of his mousy women

whose brass was dull

when they walked slow.

The newer pictures contrast sharply.

The boy has grown

and his women walk staccato

(even old ladies learn

to walk staccato, too).

She fingers the gloss lovingly, yet,

unable to forget the quiet past

when, just before war was declared

on the bus driver,

she could be angry

at being herself.

Did you notice

how her shoulder blades

seemed to have slipped

halfway down her back?

But her jutting jaw

tucks into her shoulder

and her bulging eyeballs

push at the slits

and demand respect.

Her fiery photos

may still be found

sheening the walls

of paper houses in panic,

and in the embers,

on two angular charcoal sticks,

a nearly burnt-out schizophrenic.

2. Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn by Joseph Powell

She real cool. She

Old school. She

Wrote truth. She

fool proof. She

Chi-town. She

Sweet brown. She

Jazz tune. She

Died soon.

3. for Gwendolyn Brooks by Danzr Von-Thai

From Yo Bro

Taint yo heard

There ain't no

right or wrong

until u sell

yo song

So spank me

thank me

show me how

to chisel hate

from your eyes

4. Blackness Blood: Reading Gwendolyn Brooks On the Day I Read That She Had Died by John B. Lee

"if you have one drop of blackness blood--

yes of course it comes out red--

you are mine"

Gwendolyn Brooks

Yesterday I was having a haircut

and the scissors

told the time

as the face of a woman

made polite ventrioquy

in the mirror, I watched her mouth move

where I saw myself as well

growing younger under the sibliant snip

of a sharp silver journey

and we talked, or rather

she talked and I listened

as it is with the withering weather of hair

it fell in follicle feathers

as grey as Plymouth rock down

being plucked for Sunday's company...

and she spoke

of her son, hyperventilating

within a friend's embrace

and fainting into blackness then.

She spoke

of a girl

she'd known

inhaling pressurized giggle

from canola oil sprayed in a bag.

She told of tragic children

of Labrador

dying in gasoline vapours that took

their souls away like the visible fumes

of star-hungry dynamos

catching flame

in the twelve horoscopes of heaven

and I thought

of chimney starlings overcome

and tumbling down the flu length

black as creosote brooms

of how in the culture of children

we are all

so immortally dumb

we have nothing to teach when nothing is learned

how like cat clowders

crowding modern Rome

we cry the loudest

when the darkness throngs.

5. Gwendolyn Brooks wrote this about pool hall hangouts (dropouts of yesterday):

We real cool. We

Left school. We

Lurk late. We

Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We

Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We

Die soon.

---Gwendolyn Brooks from The Bean Eaters

First Things First by Sam Hurst

Passion, loveless

Carried, carelessly

Birth, unwanted

Abuse, undeserved

Die, soon

Kill, first

6. To Gwendolyn Brooks by Marvin G. Kimbrough

A mentor for young poets are you

Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois

Pulitzer Prize winner for your Annie Allen

A poet often imitated


You are my mentor, too


When I read your poem "Kitchenette Building"

About "yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall"


Just sometimes

I'm inspired to do my dishes