An Elegiac Valedictory

By  |  May 15, 2017
“Happy Little Accidents,” by Coke Wisdom O’Neal. Courtesy of the artist “Happy Little Accidents,” by Coke Wisdom O’Neal. Courtesy of the artist

Read Kiese Laymons introduction to this poem, “I’m Talking About Revolution.


 

 

For a dozen wonderful writers:
Goodbye to all you girls and guys
who walked this weary way 
who climbed these hills
and walked these miles
this rocky wooded chase.
A dozen wonderful writers

 

Sterling Brown (1901–1989)

Sterling, poet, scholar, raconteur, and friend
Seeing you three places
Ill at home
Speaking in Jackson
When I was ill in Evanston
Like a mountain man
making the strong men stronger
Hearing the cadences
of all our folk heroes singing

 

James Baldwin (1924–1987)

Only once—a beautiful day
New York—power and pride
simple and steady
the dignified voice
of all our suffering indignities
One day

 

John O. Killens (1916–1987)

A half a dozen times
Eating together in your house
gathering in mine
Riding to the bank
Black Academy meetings
Fisk, Medgar Evers College
Chicago, Brooklyn, Washington
Southern Brother
in a northern land

 

Alice Childress (1916–1994)

Sweet sister—Sweet-talking ways
marvelous mind
and talent beyond belief
caught in the human web
of race and counterculture
sweet sister girl
sweet sister sweet

 

Sarah Webster Fabio (1928–1979)

You told me so,
raunchy, racy Sarah Fabio
Poetry, family, jazz and dance
How can we ever forget you?
Fussing, fighting, cussing a breeze
love you feisty Fabio

 

Audre Lorde (1934–1992)

Lesbian warrior
We watched the writing
Roll out of your soul
While the cancer ate your flesh
You gave us joy

 

Margaret Danner (1915–1984)

One of the other Margarets
Like a sister spirit
Walking my country lanes
Speaking steadfastly
Holding up your African sculpture
Writing your iron lace poems
Looking to me for power
I look to you for the silver thread

 

Addison Gayle (1932–1991)

Remembering forever
your last big smile
your big hug
at Tougaloo
The Richard Wright seminar
Goodbye my friend
Against the pain, I breathe goodbye

 

Ralph Ellison (1914–1994)

One day in 1939
One long day
talking easily
Eating the lobster salad
Seeing the wonderful words
Hearing the last
Hello Margaret

 

Toni Cade Bambara (1939–1995)

Truly a beautiful woman
Celebrating the feminine Sex
Sitting on my living room floor
Writing books, helping people
Living a thousand lives in one
Our lively lady-girl
The world loves your words

 

Dorothy Porter (1905–1995)

My friend for many many years;
Trips twice to Jackson
And one week in Washington
Seeing you at professional meetings
Learning so much
From a teacher, and a scholar
and a great Librarian
Eating out with crab imperial
And wonderful white wine
I miss you much my Dorothy

 

Ethel Payne (1911–1991)

Reading your column forever
wonderful meals together
Here with gumbo and red lobster
And a wonderful family meal in your apartment
In Washington
Getting cards from Namibia,
Pictures of Mandela in his home


Special thanks to Maryemma Graham of the University of Kansas and Robert Luckett of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University for supporting this publication. 

I’m Talking About Revolution,” Kiese Laymon on Margaret Walker.


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Margaret Walker (1915–1998) was the first African American to receive the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, for her first book of poems, For My People. Today considered one of the most valued black intellectuals in American history, she went on to publish four collections of poetry, a novel, a biography, and many essays. Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and raised in New Orleans.