Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Life Expectancy

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Life Expectancy

Article excerpt

for Abdul

Daryl Grigsby's question: is 55 old age for a Black man?

Start with this

there are no fritters on the burner

there will never be smells

ripe and holy as Sunday morning

corn muffins, kidney stew, tomato slices

on a Mingus morning

there will never be you on the porch

a fly brush of early red sun against your locs

the rustle of crisp newspapers

quicksilver like an Eagle's span of wings

as you pause to peer through an October sky

just a grinnin

you should not have come back

you said it yourself

there was still the itch of soda lake

beneath the thin cloth of your shirt

in your sweat

you missed the coffee trees and waterfalls

the wetlands and the women

you were no romantic though

said you often heard the booming blue wail

days, nights, years of a people's torture

riding the Pangani coast

ghost children in the salt pans

blood curdling on cliffs

fringing palms and waterbirds

still you missed Tanzania

you had found a place there

some peace

there will never be a memory

like a snapped cord

that says I could have been with you then

me with my small babies

and younger than you

my own impossible struggles and plans

could have been the cigarettes you smoked

or some dream flamed to ashes

black man you were trying so hard

only wanting a little kindness in your life

a house of certain meal and brick

cashmere horns in the midnight hour

at 45 your legs wobbled

and yellow diamonds shattered to dust

underneath black and white keys

that ushered in your last call

again the heart not outdistancing the heart

the medicine beyond the grasp

the elder women gathering to bury another son

and I don't know if I could have turned your pain

into something we could have lived with

because there was one more call

and then no more

and when I heard

some part of life slipped dark and heavy from my soul

start with this

there is comfort in the way of things

hiccups of breath then quiet then breath again

Abdul, you are in the marketplace

you are wind and color

dancing with the women of Mulalai

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