Call me Ishmael too.

Image result for ishmael reed

Ishmael Reed was born Feb 22nd 1938.  In his studies he was influenced heavily by the Beat Poets and the poets of the Harlem Renaissance.  His novel Mumbo Jumbo is listed as one of the 500 most important books in the western cannon.  That’s a long list and you probably have not heard of Reed before.  I suspect you will hear from him again now you have read this.


I Am A Cowboy In The Boat Of Ra; by by Ishmael Reed

The devil must be forced to reveal any such physical evil
(potions, charms, fetishes, etc.) still outside the body
and these must be burned.’ (Rituale Romanum, published
1947, endorsed by the coat-of-arms and introductory
letter from Francis cardinal Spellman)
I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra,
sidewinders in the saloons of fools
bit my forehead like O
the untrustworthiness of Egyptologists
who do not know their trips. Who was that
dog-faced man? they asked, the day I rode
from town.

School marms with halitosis cannot see
the Nefertiti fake chipped on the run by slick
germans, the hawk behind Sonny Rollins’ head or
the ritual beard of his axe; a longhorn winding
its bells thru the Field of Reeds.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. I bedded
down with Isis, Lady of the Boogaloo, dove
deep down in her horny, stuck up her Wells-Far-ago
in daring midday getaway. ‘Start grabbing the
blue,’ I said from top of my double crown.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Ezzard Charles
of the Chisholm Trail. Took up the bass but they
blew off my thumb. Alchemist in ringmanship but a
sucker for the right cross.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Vamoosed from
the temple i bide my time. The price on the wanted
poster was a-going down, outlaw alias copped my stance
and moody greenhorns were making me dance;
while my mouth’s
shooting iron got its chambers jammed.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Boning-up in
the ol’ West i bide my time. You should see
me pick off these tin cans whippersnappers. I
write the motown long plays for the comeback of
Osiris. Make them up when stars stare at sleeping
steer out here near the campfire. Women arrive
on the backs of goats and throw themselves on
my Bowie.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Lord of the lash,
the Loup Garou Kid. Half breed son of Pisces and
Aquarius. I hold the souls of men in my pot. I do
the dirty boogie with scorpions. I make the bulls
keep still and was the first swinger to grape the taste.

I am a cowboy in his boat. Pope Joan of the
Ptah Ra. C/mere a minute willya doll?
Be a good girl and
bring me my Buffalo horn of black powder
bring me my headdress of black feathers
bring me my bones of Ju-Ju snake
go get my eyelids of red paint.
Hand me my shadow

I’m going into town after Set

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra

look out Set here i come Set
to get Set to sunset Set
to unseat Setto Set down Set

usurper of the Royal couch
imposter RAdio of Moses’ bush
party pooper O hater of dance
vampire outlaw of the milky way

Musings upon learning that today would have been the 90th birthday of James Arlington Wright, had he lived beyond 1980.


Happy 90th Birthday to James Wright.

An award winning poet who was writing during the peak of the Beat generation, but remained outside of that movement.  He is influenced by Spanish Surrealist poetry, and he was a translator of German and South American poetry.

If you come across his poetry it is fun just to read the titles alone.  He has written poems called:  “In response to a rumor that the oldest whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia, has been condemned”  and “Depressed by a book of bad poetry, I walk toward an unused pasture and invite the insects to join me”.  The first of these is quite a damning condemnation of the town of Bridgeport, Ohio and I doubt the people of that town have much time for Wright.  He grew up in Ohio and appears to have had an unhappy childhood, so he does not love Ohio.

As well as interesting titles he delivers some great last lines.  This has an OK title and a brilliant finale.

It is called

Lying in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
the cowbells follow one another
into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
in a field of sunlight between two pines,
the droppings of last year’s horses
blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.