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					Written Blues Poems
Go Down, Death                   —James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)
(A Funeral Sermon)

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.


Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God's big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.


And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.

And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.

Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn't make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God's command.


And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She's borne the burden and heat of the day,
She's labored long in my vineyard,
And she's tired--
She's weary--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.

And Death didn't say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven's pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning's flash behind;
Straight down he came.


While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn't see;
She saw Old Death. She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn't frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I'm going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.

And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn't feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.

And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,

And the angels sang a little song,

And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.


Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.




Riverbank Blues                        —Sterling Brown (1901-1989)

A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin', no need for doin',
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.


Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary's, Big Mary's, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man's roots,
Keep him soaked and stranded and git him weak.
Lazy sun shinin' on a little cabin,
Lazy moon glistenin' over river trees;
Ole river whisperin', lappin' 'gainst de long roots:
"Plenty of rest and peace in these . . ."


Big mules, black loam, apple and peach trees,
But seems lak de river washes us down
Past de rich farms, away from de fat lands,
Dumps us in some ornery riverbank town.


Went down to the river, sot me down an' listened,
Heard de water talkin' quiet, quiet lak an' slow:
"Ain' no need fo' hurry, take yo' time, take yo' time…"
Heard it sayin'--"Baby, hyeahs de way life go . . ."


 Dat is what it tole me as I watched it slowly rollin',
But somp'n way inside me rared up an' say,
"Better be movin' . . . better be travelin' . . .

Riverbank'll git you ef you stay . . ."


Towns are sinkin' deeper, deeper in de riverbank,
Takin' on de ways of deir sulky Ole Man--
Takin' on his creepy ways, takin' on his evil ways,
"Bes' git way, a long way . . . whiles you can.

"Man got his sea too lak de Mississippi.
Ain't got so long for a whole lot longer way,
Man better move some, better not git rooted.
Muddy water fool you, ef you stay."



Special Pain Blues             —Raymond Patterson (Modern-Contemporary)

Anybody can shout and holler,
It takes a special pain to sing the blues.
I say anybody can shout and holler,
But a special pain brings the blues.
It ain't about losing your last dollar
Or having holes in both your shoes.

Children cry when they lose they candy.
Babies cry when they wet theyselves.
Young folks cry anytime it's handy.
Blues comes up from deeper wells.
Takes a natural woman
To draw that muddy water up.
Takes a natural man
To cart that bucket home
And let you drink from the broken cup
And ease the thirst that's in your bone.
(Thirsty to the bone!)

Sometimes the blues so cold
It cracks the jar it's in.
Sometimes it's scalding hot
And burns right through the skin.
Stand it up beside Ma Rainey
If you want the test.
Anything less that folks try to sing
Ain't the real thing.




Master Charge Blues —Sonia Sanchez (Contemporary)

it's wednesday night baby                      did you ever go to bed
and i'm all alone                              at the end of a busy day
wednesday night baby                           look over and see the smooth
and i'm all alone                              where your hump usta lay
sitting with myself                            feminine odor and no reason why
waiting for the telephone                      i said feminine odor and no reason why
                                               asked the lord to help me
wanted you baby                                he shook his head "not i"
but you said you had to go
wanted you yeah                                but i'm a modern woman baby
but you said you had to go                     ain't gonna let this get me down
called your best freind                        i'm a modern woman
but he can't come 'cross no more               ain't gonna let this get me down
                                               gonna take my master charge
                                               and get everything in town




Bad Mother Blues        —Sonia Sanchez (Contemporary)

When you were arrested, child, and I had to take your pocketknife
When you were arrested child, and I had to take your pocketknife
It had blood on it from where you'd tried to take your life.

It was the night before Thanksgiving, all the family coming over.
The night before Thanksgiving, all the family coming over.
We had to hide your porno magazine and put your handcuffs undercover.

Each naked man looked at you, say, Baby who do you think you are
Each man looked straight down on you, like a waiting astronomer's star
Solely, disgustedly, each wagged his luster
I've decided to throw horror down the well and wish on it
Decided I'll throw horror down the well and wish on it
And up from the water will shine my sweet girl in her baby bonnet

A thief will blind you with his flashlight
                        but a daughter be your bouquet
A thief will blind you with his flashlight
                        but a daughter be your bouquet
When the thief's your daughter you turn your eyes the other way

I'm going into the sunflower field where all of them are facing me
I'm going into the sunflower field so all of them are facing me
Going to go behind the sunflowers, feel all the sun that I can't see




Blues           —Joseph Brodsky (Contemporary)

Eighteen years I've spent in Manhattan.
The landlord was good, but he turned bad.
A scumbag, actually. Man, I hate him.
Money is green, but it flows like blood.

I guess I've got to move across the river.
New Jersey beckons with its sulphur glow.
Say, numbered years are a lesser evil.
Money is green, but it doesn't grow.

I'll take away my furniture, my old sofa.
But what could I do with my windows' view?
I feel like I've been married to it, or something.
Money is green, but it makes you blue.

A body on the whole knows where it's going.
I guess it's one's soul that makes one pray,
even though above it's just a Boeing.
Money is green, and I am gray.



Two Blues                —Donald Justice (Contemporary)

1. The Sometime Dancer Blues

When the lights go on uptown,
Why do you feel so low, honey,
Why do you feel so low-down?

When the piano and the trombone start,
Why do you feel so blue, honey,
Like a rubber glove had reached in for your heart?
Oh, when the dancers take the floor,
Why don't you step out with them, honey,
Why won't you step out with them any more?

The stars are gone and the night is dark,
Except for the radium, honey,
That glows on the hands of the bedside clock.

The little hands that go around and around,
Oh, as silently as time, honey,
Without a sound, without a sound.


2. Angel Death Blues

A dark time is coming, and the gypsy knows what else.
Fly away, O angel death.

It looks like a raven sitting on the wire.
It looks like a raven sitting on the telephone wire.
Oh, it is some high flyer!

Look out now, it's got loose in the yard.
Look out, look out, it's loose in the back yard.
Oh, no, don't you look at me, big bird.

If you are lost, I can't help.
If you are lost, I can't help.
I am a stranger in this place myself.

Fly away, fly away,
Fly away, O angel death.

And shine down, moonlight, make those long feathers shine.
I want to keep track of where it's going.
[Spoken

				
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