lullaby of avon ave.

by Amiri Baraka

Image: Anthony Alvarez via nj.com

I used to walk past Sassy’s crib
a couple times a week, when young

And each time say, “That’s
Where Sarah Vaughn lives.”

That was when Symphony Sid
used to call her, “The Divine One,”
Late nights, from hip Bird Land

Oh man, what a feeling that was
Divine & so hip & so very
beautiful.

The house is gone now
Symphony Sid too

As for the town, now
Sassy told us
just before she split

I’m gone, now
Send in

The
Clowns!

In 1949 Sarah Vaughan with her manager and then-husband George Treadwell bought a three-story house at 21 Avon Avenue. Her parents, Asbury and Ada Vaughan, moved from her childhood home on Brunswick Street into the two lower floors, while she and Treadwell occupied the top floor. By then, however, touring and recording kept the singer away from Newark for extended periods.

“Lullaby of Avon Ave.” appeared in the 1996 collection Funk Lore and the Summer 1996 issue of Journal of New Jersey Poets.

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stirling street september

by Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones)

Image: Helen M. Stummer
Image: Helen M. Stummer

                                                                        (for Sylvia)

I  CAN  BE  THE  BEAUTIFUL  BLACK  MAN
because I am
the beautiful black man, and you, girl, child nightlove,
you are beautiful
too.
We are something, the two of us
the people love us for being
though they may call us out our
name, they love our strength
in the midst of, quiet, at the peak of,
violence, for the sake of, at the lust of
pure life, WE  WORSHIP  THE  SUN,

We are strange in a way because we know
who we are. Black beings passing through
a tortured passage of flesh.

These lines are from Black Art, published in 1966.

air

by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

Image: discovery.com
Image: DCL via discovery.com

I am lost in hot fits
of myself
trying
to get
out. Lost
because
I am kinder
to myself
than I
need
Softer
w/ others
than is good
for them.

Taller
than
most/
Stronger
What is it
about me
that
frightens me
loses
me
tosses me helplessly
in
the air.

Oh love
Songs
dont leave
w/o me
that you
are the weakness
of my simplicity
Are feeling
& want
All need
& romance
I wd do anything
to be loved
& this
is a stupid
mistake.

“Air” was included in Black Magic, a collection of Amiri Baraka’s poems written between 1961 and 1967.

little brown jug

by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

Version 2

Who are you?
A lost brother.
A singer. A song
I lost, almost, sat up
one night, itched
till it came
to me, cried
one night, happy
that it played
through me.

Little Brown Jug. Nigger Brother.
Dust singer in
the shadow of old
fences. Companion, of melody
rhythm
turned around heart runs
climbed & jumped screaming
WE ARE GODS, as we
sailed years through the firmament
landing beside a
garage, Dear brother, song
slides the streets, circles the cold,
sweats on summer fruit, Oh I
love my black energy &
lost brother father serenade
me, as world-solo, the spirits
bubble, loft, & say
where you are. I suffer
to hear you so tough
& know all the spooks
who need to.

In the 1964 essay “Hunting is Not Those Heads on the Wall,” Amiri Baraka (as LeRoi Jones) famously wrote: “Art is one of many products of thought. An impressive one, perhaps the most impressive one, but to revere art, and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence, is finally not even to understand what art is.”

“Little Brown Jug” is from Black Art, published in 1966.

ballad of the morning streets

by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

Image: Jule Spohn via newarkphotos.com
Image: Jule Spohn via newarkphotos.com

The magic of the day is the morning
I want to say the day is morning high
and sweet, good
morning.

The ballad of the morning streets, sweet
voices turns
of cool warm weather
high around the early windows grey to blue
and down again amongst the kids and
broken signs, is pure love magic, sweet day
come into me, let me live with you
and dig your blazing

“Ballad of the Morning Streets” is from the collection Black Art, published in 1966.

young soul

by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

First, feel, then feel, then
read, or read, then feel, then
fall, or stand, where you
already are. Think
of your self, and the other
selves . . . think
of your parents, your mothers
and sisters, your bentslick
father, then feel, or
fall, on your knees
if nothing else will move you,
                                            then read
                                            and look deeply
                                            into all matters
                                            come close to you
                                            city boys—
                                            country men
                                           
                                            Make some muscle
                                            in your head, but
                                            use the muscle
                                            in yr heart

“Young Soul” appeared in Black Magic, a collection of poems composed between 1961 and 1967.