Cornelius Eady

Seven Poems

Volume 5:3, Summer 2004

Hesitation Blues

I am five or six years old, and my mother is on her knees.
She is at the county welfare office, and something has gone
wrong. The assistance she’d hoped for isn’t going to
happen, and she is at the end of her rope.

She has three children, and whatever our daddy is doing, it
either isn’t enough, or it’s barely too much, since her
arguments will not move whomever is sitting behind this
desk, looking at the top of her head.

My mother has fallen for love, for mercy, for her children,
to her knees.

But there will be no pity for whatever sorrows have pushed
her to this. To the ears I can’t fully remember, her crisis
must have rung of back door blues. How impatient they
must have become for my mother to rise, O careless love, O
easy rider, off their hard luck floor.

Fetchin’ Bones

My father’s a sealed tin of dust, riding in the trunk of
my rental car.
My sister and niece are in the back seat, and I
choose not to inform them of this.
Later, I will meet with my cousin at the church
where the memorial service was held.
I will set the box on the curb while we talk.
I am carting around the rubble of a man who
loved to call me stupid, who made my sister feel like
nothing, who drove my mother nuts.
I have done this in order to shave a few dollars off
the funeral costs, I tell myself, as a small part of me
gives in, fans the smoldering pleasure.

 

Eglon Daley, "Spanish Fest," 64" x 96", acrylic on canvas

Eglon Daley, “Spanish Fest,”
64″ x 96″, acrylic on canvas

The Dance

When the world ends,
I will be in a red dress.
When the world ends,
I will be in a smoky bar
on Friday night.
When the world ends,
I will be a thought-cloud.
When the world ends,
I will be steam in a tea kettle.
When the world ends,
I will be a sunbeam through
a lead window,
And I will shake like the
semis on the interstate,
And I will shake like the tree
kissed by lightning,
And I will move; the earth will move
too,
And I will move; the cities will move
too,
And I will move, with the remains of
my last paycheck in my pocket.
It will be Friday night
And I will be in a red dress,
My feet relieved of duty,
My body in free-fall,
Loose as a ballerina
in zero gravity,
Equal at last with feathers
and dust,
As the world faints and tumbles
down the stairs,
The jukebox is overtaken at last,
And the cicadas, under the eaves,
warm up their legs.

Rodney King Blues

I love the world,
But my heart’s
Been cheated.

What’s in my hands?
Pain, a low
Moan. That’s

What it feels like.
Now every street
Shadows my steps.
A sin
And a shame.

What do I carry?
There’s
Mr. Death

In his severe
Blue uniform,
Mr. Misfortune
And his legal fists.
A low-
Down funk.

What’s on my heart?
‘Buke
And scorn,
Mr. Hard Luck’s
Satisfaction.

Blue musk.
Sorrowful shoes.
Rodney King Blues.

Jemima’s Do-Rag

I crown her secret, the hair
The world seems to dread.
At night, alone, after work has loosened
Its grip, and the muscles of her smile
Can relax, at the dresser, beside the
Washbasin, down comes the beauty
They try so hard to bind.

I hear there’s a man on the street,
Eyes dead as marbles, dodging
The law. They say his cap is made
Of wool. If he sleeps, I bet he dreams
Like we do, scalp uncoiled, nobody’s helper,
No one’s aunt.

Buckwheat’s Lament

My family tells me this white gang I run with will
Grow up, and leave me behind. Our bones
Will change, and so will their affection. I will
Be a childlike man who lives in a shack. Just
Wait, they promise, my hair will become
Hoo-doo. The white girls will deny how we rassled,
What we saw. They laugh

Wait ’till you’re grown. And I hear this sad place
At the middle of that word where they live,
Where they wait for my skin to go sour.

Leadbelly

You can actually hear it in his voice:
Sometimes the only way to discuss it
Is to grip a guitar as if it were
Somebody’s throat
And pluck. If there were

A ship off of this planet,
An ark where the blues could show
Its other face,

A street where you could walk,
Just walk without dogged air at
Your heels, at your back, don’t
You think he’d choose it?
Meanwhile, here’s the tune:
Bad luck, empty pockets,
Trouble walking your way
With his tin ear.

 

 

Cornelius Eady is a poet, playwright and songwriter born in Rochester, Y in 1954. He is the author of eight books of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, 2008). His second book, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1985; in 2001 Brutal Imagination was a finalist for the National Book Award. Other awards include Fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Traveling Scholarship, and The Prairie Schooner Strousse Award. In 1996 Eady co-founded, with writer Toi Derricotte, the Cave Canem summer workshop/retreat for African American poets. Eady formerly taught at American University in DC and Notre Dame University. He is currently The Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing and Professor in English at The University of Missouri-Columbia.