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News from Harlem

    for Marcus Mosiah Garvey


Even here on the south side of this city
of wind and blood, news is good for negroes.
A fat-faced, true African man, one of
those black men you know never
had a doubt that he is a man and strong,
too; one of those magic men
who knows what God must feel like
standing over an army of angels; one
of those men who's stood at the edge
of the new century and seen a wide
world of what could be; a man who,
when he heard what Du Bois said
about the color line, thought right off
that this is going to be a century
where everybody will be talking
about niggers like they are new money
and he, sure as hell, is going
to shine and shine. A man
with two big hands and a head
full of words who knows the freedom
of nothing to lose; a man who
knows the long legacy of rebels,
those maroons whispering Akan
in the hills—knife men, cutlass men,
roots men, Congo men;
those yellow-eyed quiet men
who look at death like it is
a good idea that someone came up
with; a man who learned by
touching the split chest of a white
man, his heart still thumping,
everything inside him slick
with blood and water, his ribs
pulled aside where the doctor
tried, that white men
ain't nothing but flesh, old rotting
flesh like everybody else—
a man who's done the math
and knows that for fifty years,
his people have been waiting
for something bigger than themselves.
Well, news has it that this man
is causing trouble in Harlem
and the world won't be the same
when he's done with it. Even
here, the excitement of it is
rushing through the blues joints
and people are strutting about like
they have been marching, like
they been waving flags, like they shouting
the name of freedom beside
the round-faced black man,
with his proud, high voice
showering imperatives on the folks
who gather to hear him talk
with his sweet island singing.
Black man sweating, dressed
clean with high collar and good
shoes. Yeah, this is good news
walking, 'cause we all need a daddy,
a man with a good firm voice,
a man who knows what we must
do to change this wearying world,
a man with a head full of dreams
of ships, seven miles of them
coming into that gaping Hudson
mouth, red, gold, and green flags
flapping in the air—seven miles
of ships as far as the eye can see,
coming in, coming in, coming in.


Kwame Dawes

Hayden's Ferry Review

Spring / Summer 2013


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