Two New Poems by George Elliott Clarke

The poems happened completely by chance. This “chanciness” is deliberate. I begin to write something that’s vaguely about African slavery, and then a direction or impulse or voice imposes itself on the writing. These poems – Solomon 2 and Experience 1 – are based on my interpretation of how unlettered black (ex) slaves understood The Holy Bible – as a concrete work, as being about deliverance and liberation now, as dealing with the facts of human existence – absolute truth, yes, but not necessarily fundamentalist…. The poems are from a work-in-progress, The Canticles, an epic dealing with slavery, in which every single poem has been written away, but usually only with a tacit relationship to the location of the writing. The epic is, itself, an odyssey in its very creation. – G.E.C.


Solomon 2: 1-7

Fate? Is all your fault.

The earth cracks open,
crumples kings,
cripples castles.

Our numbered cadavers feed flies innumerable.
Count on it.

Today supplies sleep, sweets, sports, and sex:
Tomorrow plies storms, sickness, sweat, and sorrows.

You die,
wracked by pains that make you curse
your mother for loving your father.

Our catharsis? Dismemberment.

Even gold is dirt-tarnished.

– Berlin, Germany. 7 May, 2011.


Experience 1: 1-9

History is nothing like what is reported.
(Hard to drain light from mud.)

Trumpets don’t usher in Heaven.

Truth blinds, but Deceit dazzles.

Flames that don’t gleam are smoke.

Manure gerrymanders gardens:
Eden flowers from shit.

Fine wine refines urine.

Politics is PREJUDICE.

Behind these black letters?
White bone, invisible breath.

Bread is eternal.
But your words?

– Zurich, Switzerland. 14 September, 2011.