Happy Birthday Lucille Clifton

Amazons of Dahomey

Warrior Women of Dahomey

A raunchy poet, someone who revels in the human body, celebrates it, owns it.  Also a celebrated champion of African American Heritage.  She was brought to public note by none other than Langston Hughes when he published her in his anthology “The Poetry of the Negro” in 1967.

She traced her roots to Benin and the celebrated Kingdom of Dahomey, home of the fierce Warrior Amazons, not of legend but of recorded history.  They formed the King’s bodyguard and female regiments made up one third of all the armed forces in the Kingdom.  The last of the Dahomey Amazons died in 1979, aged over 100, and claimed she fought the French, which would have been in 1892-1894.

No surprise, with roots like these, that Lucille Clifton could spin a man like a top with her big hips.


Homage to my Hips; by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Word Cloud Flash

Haven’t done one of these in a while, so here is what I have been writing about recently:



Dreams; by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

3 Birthdays


I give you three great birthdays today.  Firstly the painting by Paul Gaugin, born this day in 1848, of two women from his residency in Tahiti.  This is followed by two women, both African American poets.

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win a pultizer prize for her collection “Annie Allen” published in 1950.

Nikki Giovanni is a winner of the Langston Hughes medal, was a political activist in the late 1960’s and the 1970’s and is now a professor in Virginia tech.

Happy Birthday all three.


We real cool; by Gwendolyn Brooks (B. 1917)
The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.



I wrote a good omelet; by Nikki Giovanni (B. 1943)

I wrote a good omelet…and ate
a hot poem… after loving you
Buttoned my car…and drove my
coat home…in the rain…
after loving you
I goed on red…and stopped on
green…floating somewhere in between…
being here and being there…
after loving you
I rolled my bed…turned down
my hair…slightly
confused but…I don’t care…
Laid out my teeth…and gargled my
gown…then I stood
…and laid me down…
To sleep…
after loving you

All that Jazz


The photo above, entitled “A great day in Harlem” was taken in New York in 1958 on August 12th.

In the photo are captured 57 of the greatest Jazz musicians of all time.  There are also some local kids sitting on the pavement beside Count Basie.

It is a unique record of a moment in time at the height of the Jazz era.  My parents time.  My fathers day, when he worked by day and ran his own dance band by night, leading from the Piano.  Back in the days before electronic music, amplification or DJ’s when every wedding or party needed to hire a band of real musicians.

I grew up to the sound of a Jazz piano and to this day the music stirs my soul and engages my youthful emotions, taking me back to a memory of my father.

If you think you recognize the photo you may have seen it in the Movie “The Terminal”.  Tom Hanks plays the part of Victor Navorski who comes to New York to complete his fathers task to collect the autograph of every Jazz musician in the photo.  The final autograph he needs is Saxophone player Benny Golson.

Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins are the only two musicians in the photo still alive today.

The Weary Blues; by Langston Hughes

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
And put ma troubles on the shelf.”

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.