Poetry

Two Poems by Harmony Holiday

Our poetry editor, Wendy Xu, has selected two poems by Harmony Holiday for her monthly series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

Alma Thomas, “Leaves Fluttering in the Breeze” (1973), oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Huntington Library (photo by Elisa Wouk Almino/Hyperallergic)

 

No  Line     Ma

 

That    it     was   objective      to    shred    this   river        ever     so            misanthropic     I    love     everybody

Going    sailing       low     in     the      net              next     star    over    tar  or  tour  card    Jimmy’s    tailor

dark    as      the   spiders   he    raises   to    scarves             and  april            it’s    the     end   of  loneliness

I    fantasize         about      this      heist          the  poltergeist      who    finally    strangles     the   ready   b  l u  e   white

And  nights   alone    in  linen   algorithms     with   no   one    but    him       in    me    punching   the air          hello

There  is    no    one   left    to    be  lonely    for        longing    is     as     grotesque    as   ever

I’m      not    doing       that     anymore          it’s     three   AM    and     disappearance   remedies     lurking             outside     against      the    trumpet    bricks              you    tried         needing    somebody      by habit    but

the  tribe’s   been   emptied

There’s     a   slick  new   way   to   say    I’m  on the list    every  night

There’s a new entrance   a   fight   that   gasps  like    a   prayer    between   dl   bouncers   and    their   true  loves

Dat   ass     that      diamond   in    the  back      actin’

I’m   tempted   to       get   to   Algeria       and     declare       you      dead      all   casual like      strangers    had

But there   are   so   many  of    us     up  in   the  mountains      pretending       we’re    coming    back      stranger black

 

I want you  to  know    I’m not coming    back                not    for   agriculture   not    to    be  blackgold  for   you      and   downriver          a    shredded    herd    of             that   girl

 

Maafa     you    call    her

Crazy   you    call  her

 

Later   this    century      trying   to   win    her     in   a  raffle  with   a crystal   candy   dish    and     some  hotel   soap

Prizes   like    this     are   embarrassing

The  ones   you   win   when   you   couldn’t    care  less

Like citizens     and     a    dozen    motherless  men

 

 

Then what

I keep  the   autumn   leaves tucked        between   my      feet    like    feathers  or   the     other      chromosomes

The  chrome     is    for   the    color           omens      &    for     us        thrush     and    crisp   underfoot     in   the   middle        of      canada          that   we    live    to    tell    it         don’t    run    out   of   plot      acting    guilty      for     the   kill      you      revel     in          privately          outrun     the     guilt         damn   I    hate    shy   bitch

Don’t  you  like     the    way     I’m  alive    to    tell it          &   shameless

Don’t   you   run    the   way   you   pronounce      t r i b u n a l          on  a bend   of    contempt             romantic

 

 

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Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, and the author of four collections of poetry Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues, and Hollywood Forever, and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom, forthcoming. She also founded and runs Afrosonics, an archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics and Mythscience an imprint that reissues work from the archive. She contributed to SOS, the selected poems of Amiri Baraka, transcribing all of his poetry recorded with jazz that had yet to be released in print and exists primarily on out-of-print records. Harmony studied rhetoric at UC Berkeley and taught for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She received her MFA from Columbia University and has received the Motherwell Prize from Fence Books, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a NYFA fellowship. She is currently working on a book of poems called M a a f a  and an accompanying collection of essays and memoir entitled, Reparations: Thieves Who Stole my Blue Days, as well as a biography of jazz singer Abbey Lincoln.

These poems are excerpted from M a a f  a, a collection named after the underused word for the African holocaust, and which centers on  a woman by the same name.

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