This Woman Twirling

Sonia Sanchez

“The most fundamental truth to be told in any art form, as far as blacks are concerned, is that America is killing us.”

Sonia Sanchez

For Sister Gwen Brooks

Sonia Sanchez – 1934-


you tell the stars
don’t be jealous of her light
you tell the ocean,
you call out to Olukun,
to bring her always to
safe harbor,
for she is a holy one
this woman twirling
her emerald lariat
you tell the night
to move gently
into morning so she’s
not startled,
you tell the morning
to ease her into a water
fall of dreams
for she is a holy one
restringing her words
from city to city
so that we live and
breathe and smile and
breathe and love and
breathe her…
this Gwensister called life.

Sonia Sanchez, a leader in the Black Studies movement over the past 50 years, is a poet, playwright, professor and activist.  During the early 1960’s Sanchez was focused on racial equality, but as the violence of the 1960’s progressed she became more and more influenced by the ideas of Malcolm X, and the concepts around a separatist, independent black movement as a place of empowerment was needed among the black community.  Sanchez became an early pioneer in the emerging field of Black Studies, including developing classes on African American women’s literature and social justice.

Sanchez has published extensively as a poet, pushing new boundaries like the 1970 book  We a BaddDDD People, in which her love of African American language is the foundation of her poetic style.  She has written poetry for adults and children and is fond of haiku.  An important scholar and teacher, Sanchez had a lengthy teaching career and has won numerous awards for her writing. 

Sanchez was briefly married to Ethridge Knight in the 1960’s, with whom she had two sons.  Sanchez’s poetry is deeply influenced by  her experiences of motherhood, both as a mother and as a daughter, shaped in part from the loss of her own Mother when she was two in childbirth, and then her maternal Grandmother who was raising her when she was 6.   Sanchez also has a daughter from her first marriage. 


For Malcolm, A Year After

by Ethridge Knight (1931 – 1991)

Compose for Red a proper verse;
Adhere to foot and strict iamb;
Control the burst of angry words
Or they might boil and break the dam.
Or they might boil and overflow
And drench me, drown me, drive me mad.
So swear no oath, so shed no tear,
And sing no song blue Baptist sad.
Evoke no image, stir no flame,
And spin no yarn across the air.
Make empty anglo tea lace words—
Make them dead white and dry bone bare.
Compose a verse for Malcolm man,
And make it rime and make it prim.
The verse will die—as all men do—
but not the memory of him!
Death might come singing sweet like C,
Or knocking like the old folk say,
The moon and stars may pass away,
But not the anger of that day.

Let Me Drive To Hell In Style

Etheridge Knight
Etheridge Knight (1931 – 1991)

Feeling Fucked Up

by Etheridge Knight

Lord she’s gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs—

Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

Last Words by Slick

by Etheridge Knight

(or a self / sung eulogy)

Now, when I / die, dont you bury me
On no lone prairie;
And dont put me in no plain pine box
(cause I left plenty cold cash!);
And throw my cold butt in the deep blue sea.
Whatever you do, dont plant me / in no six feet of dirt;
Just mash me, mash me, except for my dick,
Which I want wrapped in a white / woman’s skirt.

I dont want no preacher / man a-preaching
Over me—cause I know where I am going.
I dont want no tears, no flowers,
No standing around and waiting / up / all hours.
Just get a golden trumpet, and have Dizzy blow it.
Cause I / wuz / Slick—and you damn well know it.

No piano playing, no blues please;
No moaning and groaning;
Just lay me on the table, mash me
Into my two-hundred-dollar suit,
Red socks, black patent leather shoes,
Polka-dot tie (make damn sure it’s silk—
And dont forget it!)

Take me out to my pink cadillac
Prop me up / under the steering wheel,
Tow me out to real high hill,
Dig a hole—twenty feet long and twenty feet wide,
Place a giant joint of reefer / weed by my side;
Then leave me alone
And let me drive to hell in style!