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James Baldwin

I can post this here or in Discussion I. I think it more a field note than a topic for critical discussion.

I am loving my IPhone. I can be at work, sweating hard in a bee yard or gone bug eyed at the microscope, take a smoke break, maybe sit for a moment in the truck's A/C or go outside from the lab and take in sky and tree lines, and I can check in on line.

An FB friend posted a couple of quotes by James Baldwin. I couldn't resist. Commented. You see, Baldwin has always been central to my awakening, for lack of a better word. This goes back to '69. Too tired now, this evening, to go through it all. But in him I found humanity, sanity, and the heroic willingness to love. Let me make sure last phrase is not lost to some hyper-critic. The willingness to love has indeed become increasingly heroic in a cynical, critical age such as ours.

I read a bunch of Baldwin, but the novel that insinuated itself into me the most was his "Another Country." 40 years later I'm still convinced Baldwin's novel is that thing much sought after, the great American novel. It's all there, what it means to be human, what the American experience amounts to. What it means to be a Jew in America, a white man, black man, white woman, black woman, a gay, a dreamer, and, what it means to have soul no matter environment. All of our novelists and poets have either been hemmed in by circumstance or environment. But not Baldwin. His lyrical prose demonstrates as much. He was not hemmed in. He is America's Flaubert. America's Turgenev.

Baldwin died December, 1987. To me it felt like my spiritual guide had signed out. That was hard. My poem to him was written in less than 24 hours upon the news, then needed a decade or so to get as right as I could get it.

The Gift Giver

He wouldn't live among us,
he chose not to mimic
the American madness
he said was holding to us.
And so he lived where he died
in the south of France,
which has set me to wondering
about the language he used
when he was dreaming;
or how he might have viewed
the crosshatched pictures
that must have hung before him
through out those years.

And I tend to believe
he was one of those men
who you couldn't help but love.
For sure he was one of those men
to show how close the thing
of crosshatching images should be.
Which brings me back to what happened
on the day I heard he was dead,
the day a blue heron came up the bay,
the day I awoke
to an unaccountable sadness
until I finally read
the newspaper notice.
The day after the night
when a storm came riding through,
riding in waves of blue-black ink
like a Stellar's jay
like a crosshatched day
like a world-soul's moan
or like sadness suddenly getting
stapled to a name.

And maybe I might not've known
if someone hadn’t called it a storm.
It just seemed so normal,
the beating winds
and the banshee squall coming through
the inlet's funnel.
Sweet James
the mighty-main James
the famed James Baldwin
who long ago said good-bye
to his first country's shame,
and for no better reason
I'd be willing to bet
than that he was quick to figure out
how crosshatched seasons can present
the baby face choice in twos.

The twisted-sister face for some,
for anyone bent on searching
for pleasure in pain,
or the dreamy sweet scheme
in the silver lead string
of the moon guard motion.
And the bird in the bush
who still eyes the bay.
Good-bye James.


Last edited by Terreson, Dec/15/2018, 4:36 pm
Aug/2/2013, 9:20 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
Christine98 Profile
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Re: James Baldwin

hi Tere,

Don't know if you've seen this, I thought you'd like it:

Aug/24/2013, 12:31 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
Terreson Profile
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Re: James Baldwin

Thanks, Chris.

Aug/24/2013, 10:35 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson

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