Posts tagged ‘1963’

Monday, 30 December 2019

What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black (Reflections of an African-American Mother) by (Victoria) Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs


What shall I tell my children who are black
Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin
What shall I tell my dear one, fruit of my womb,
Of how beautiful they are when everywhere they turn
They are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black.
Villains are black with black hearts.
A black cow gives no milk. A black hen lays no eggs.
Bad news comes bordered in black, black is evil
And evil is black and devils’ food is black…

What shall I tell my dear ones raised in a white world
A place where white has been made to represent
All that is good and pure and fine and decent.
Where clouds are white, and dolls, and heaven
Surely is a white, white place with angels
Robed in white, and cotton candy and ice cream
and milk and ruffled Sunday dresses
And dream houses and long sleek cadillacs
And angel’s food is white…all, all…white.

What can I say therefore, when my child
Comes home in tears because a playmate
Has called him black, big lipped, flatnosed
and nappy headed? What will he think
When I dry his tears and whisper, “Yes, that’s true.
But no less beautiful and dear.”
How shall I lift up his head, get him to square
His shoulders, look his adversaries in the eye,
Confident of the knowledge of his worth,
Serene under his sable skin and proud of his own beauty?

What can I do to give him strength
That he may come through life’s adversities
As a whole human being unwarped and human in a world
Of biased laws and inhuman practices, that he might
Survive. And survive he must! For who knows?
Perhaps this black child here bears the genius
To discover the cure for…Cancer
Or to chart the course for exploration of the universe.
So, he must survive for the good of all humanity.
He must and will survive.
I have drunk deeply of late from the foundation
Of my black culture, sat at the knee and learned
From Mother Africa, discovered the truth of my heritage,
The truth, so often obscured and omitted.
And I find I have much to say to my black children.

I will lift up their heads in proud blackness
With the story of their fathers and their fathers
Fathers. And I shall take them into a way back time
of Kings and Queens who ruled the Nile,
And measured the stars and discovered the
Laws of mathematics. Upon whose backs have been built
The wealth of continents. I will tell him
This and more. And his heritage shall be his weapon
And his armor; will make him strong enough to win
Any battle he may face. And since this story is
Often obscured, I must sacrifice to find it
For my children, even as I sacrificed to feed,
Clothe and shelter them. So this I will do for them
If I love them. None will do it for me.
I must find the truth of heritage for myself
And pass it on to them. In years to come I believe
Because I have armed them with the truth, my children
And my children’s children will venerate me.
For it is the truth that will make us free!


Date: 1968

From: (Victoria) Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs (1915-2010)

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Starting Again by Irwin Peter Russell

When you have laid your ghosts
Placated all the shades
Spilt wine upon the posts
Set honey in the glads

When you’ve confessed your sins
And been absolved from them
And a new life begins
Cleansed as it were from shame

Then will the shadows rear
Then fears like rats will gnaw
Then friends that were will jeer
More, evere, than before

Then utterly alone
Shut in your empty house
You’ll weep and gasp and groan
And long for even a mouse

To gaze with little eyes
Upon your suffering—
Diminutive and wise
He’ll come, though he knows nothing—
and you’ll sing, you’ll sing…


Date: 1963

By: Irwin Peter Russell (1921-2003)

Friday, 11 May 2018

A Poem by Subo Acharya

Men do live and men do die
good men live and bad men too
bad men die and good men live
good men die and bad men live
how men come to harm and what is harm
the secret fever rises in my heart
my empty skull is crooked and tired
bones in my cracked skin also crack
men do live and men do die.


Date: ?1963 (original in Bengali); 2009 (translation in English)

By: Subo Acharya (19??- )

Translated by: Jyotirmoy Datta (1936- )

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Owl by George Mann MacBeth

Is my favourite. Who flies
like a nothing through the night,
who-whoing. Is a feather
duster in leafy corners ring-a-rosy-ing
boles of mice. Twice

you hear him call. Who
is he looking for? You hear
him hoovering over the floor
of the wood. O would you be gold
rings in the driving skull

if you could? Hooded and
vulnerable by the winter suns
owl looks. Is the grain of bark
in the dark. Round beaks are at
work in the pellety nest,

working. Owl is an eye
in the barn. For a hole
in the trunk owl’s blood
is to blame. Black talons in the
petrified fur! Cold walnut hands

on the case of the brain! In the reign
of the chicken owl comes like
a god. Is a goad in
the rain to the pink eyes,
dripping. For a meal in the day

flew, killed, on the moor. Six
mouths are the seed of his
arc in the season. Torn meat
from the sky. Owl lives
by the claws of his brain. On the branch

in the sever of the hand’s
twigs owl is a backward look.
Flown wind in the skin. Fine
Rain in the bones. Owl breaks
Like the day. Am an owl, am an owl.


Date: 1963

By: George Mann MacBeth (1932-1992)

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Old and the New Masters by Randall Jarrell

About suffering, about adoration, the old masters
Disagree. When someone suffers, no one else eats
Or walks or opens the window–no one breathes
As the sufferers watch the sufferer.
In St. Sebastian Mourned by St. Irene
The flame of one torch is the only light.
All the eyes except the maidservant’s (she weeps
And covers them with a cloth) are fixed on the shaft
Set in his chest like a column; St. Irene’s
Hands are spread in the gesture of the Madonna,
Revealing, accepting, what she does not understand.
Her hands say: “Lo! Behold!”
Beside her a monk’s hooded head is bowed, his hands
Are put together in the work of mourning.
It is as if they were still looking at the lance
Piercing the side of Christ, nailed on his cross.
The same nails pierce all their hands and feet, the same
Thin blood, mixed with water, trickles from their sides.
The taste of vinegar is on every tongue
That gasps, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
They watch, they are, the one thing in the world.

So, earlier, everything is pointed
In van der Goes’ Nativity, toward the naked
Shining baby, like the needle of a compass.
The different orders and sizes of the world:
The angels like Little People, perched in the rafters
Or hovering in mid-air like hummingbirds;
The shepherds, so big and crude, so plainly adoring;
The medium-sized donor, his little family,
And their big patron saints; the Virgin who kneels
Before her child in worship; the Magi out in the hills
With their camels–they ask directions, and have pointed out
By a man kneeling, the true way; the ox
And the donkey, two heads in the manger
So much greater than a human head, who also adore;
Even the offerings, a sheaf of wheat,
A jar and a glass of flowers, are absolutely still
In natural concentration, as they take their part
In the salvation of the natural world.
The time of the world concentrates
On this one instant: far off in the rocks
You can see Mary and Joseph and their donkey
Coming to Bethlehem; on the grassy hillside
Where their flocks are grazing, the shepherds gesticulate
In wonder at the star; and so many hundreds
Of years in the future, the donor, his wife,
And their children are kneeling, looking: everything
That was or will be in the world is fixed
On its small, helpless, human center.

After a while the masters show the crucifixion
In one corner of the canvas: the men come to see
What is important, see that it is not important.
The new masters paint a subject as they please,
And Veronese is prosecuted by the Inquisition
For the dogs playing at the feet of Christ,
The earth is a planet among galaxies.
Later Christ disappears, the dogs disappear: in abstract
Understanding, without adoration, the last master puts
Colors on canvas, a picture of the universe
In which a bright spot somewhere in the corner
Is the small radioactive planet men called Earth.


Date: 1963

By: Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Hard Times by Harry Buckley Whitehead

Yoh munnut come agen hard times;
We thowt those days were done,
When th’ dust lay thick i’ th’ jinny-gate1,
Where the wheels no longer run;
When th’ yed-stocks2 stood like silent ghosts,
And th’ straps and ropes were still;
Where o abeawt ‘em seemed to say,
“There’s nowt to do i’ th’ mill.”

Yoh munnut come agen hard times,
For Owdham’s had its share.
When th’ purse were thin, and times were bad,
And ther’ weren’t mich to spare;
When nob’dy axed, or seemed to care,
Heaw were its troubles met?
Thoose wounds lie deep, the scars remain,
The folk remember yet.

Yoh munnut come to haunt these streets,
Where once yoh left your mark;
Where care and want together walked,
Wi’ thousands eawt o’ wark;
Where daycent men, fro’ daycent whoms,
Wi’ brocken heart and soul,
Went trudgein’ deawn that hopeless road,
To th’ means test and the dole.

1Jinny-gate – part of the cotton-spinning machinery.
2 Yed-stocks – head-stocks, also part of the machinery.


Date: 1963

By: Harry Buckley Whitehead (1890-1966)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

I Remember Mama by Sarah Henderson Hay

The trouble is, I never felt secure.
There we were, crammed into that wretched shoe,
Ragged and cold and miserably poor,
And Mama never knowing what to do.
Most of the time we lived on watery stew,
She couldn’t even bake a loaf of bread,
And every night she’d thrash us black and blue
And send the snivelling lot of us to bed.

I used to lie awake for hours, and plan
The things I’d do, when I became a man…
And this is why I lurk in darkened hallways,
And prowl dim streets and lonely parks, and always
Carry a knife, in case I meet another
Old woman who reminds me of my mother.

From: Hay, Sarah Henderson, Story Hour, 1998, University of Arkansas Press: Fayetteville, p. 7.

Date: 1963

By: Sarah Henderson Hay (1906-1987)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hush Now, the Darkling Man by Ingrid Jonker

for Simone

On the green footpath
of the horizon far
around the earth little one,
an old man trudges who wears
an open moon in his hair
Nightingale in his heart
jasmin plucked for his buttonhole
and a back bowed down by his years.

What’s he doing, mummy?
He calls the crickets
He calls the black
silence that sings
like the rushes, my sweet
and the stars which throb
knock-knock my love,
like the tiny little beetles
in their thin far ring.

What’s his name, mummy?
His name is Hush
His name is Sleep
Mister Forget
from the Land of Dream
His name is hush
he’s called, my sweet
Hush now, the darkling man

Hush now, the darkling man


Date: 1963 (published in Afrikaans); 2007 (this English translation)

By: Ingrid Jonker (1933-1965)

Translated by: Antjie Krog (1952- ) and André Philippus Brink (1935- )

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join Me by James Wright

Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone.
I climb a slight rise of grass.
I do not want to disturb the ants
Who are walking single file up the fence post,
Carrying small white petals,
Casting shadows so frail that I can see through them.
I close my eyes for a moment and listen.
The old grasshoppers
Are tired, they leap heavily now,
Their thighs are burdened.
I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make.
Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins
In the maple trees.


Date: 1963

By: James Wright (1927-1980)

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Impossible Fact by Christian Otto Josef Wolfgang Morgenstern

Palmstroem, old, an aimless rover,
walking in the wrong direction
at a busy intersection
is run over.

“How,” he says, his life restoring
and with pluck his death ignoring,
“can an accident like this
ever happen? What’s amiss?

“Did the state administration
fail in motor transportation?
Did police ignore the need
for reducing driving speed?

“Isn’t there a prohibition,
barring motorized transmission
of the living to the dead?
Was the driver right who sped . . . ?”

Tightly swathed in dampened tissues
he explores the legal issues,
and it soon is clear as air:
Cars were not permitted there!

And he comes to the conclusion:
His mishap was an illusion,
for, he reasons pointedly,
that which must not, can not be.


Date: 1910 (in German); 1963 (in translation)

By: Christian Otto Josef Wolfgang Morgenstern (1871-1914)

Translated by: Max E Knight (1909-1993)