Three poems by Yvette R. Murray

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These poems are part of a special section of the Mid-Atlantic Review, Celebrating Black History, and selected by editors Khadijah Ali-Coleman, Carolivia Herron, and Rebecca Bishophall. To learn more about this series read a blog post on the Day Eight website here.

 

Take the 5 to Harlem
(for the I, too, Arts Collective)

 

Right after the funeral during the repast
I asked the question:
Which train do I take to get to Harlem?
My cousin quizzed me:
Why do you want to go to Harlem so bad?
I have both pen and paper, I answered.
Like a sea turtle
I am guided by its light.
I figured out that from my current perch
I should take the 5.
Take the 5 to Harlem.
Fret my family did as I would not wait.
A Gullah Geechee out of place
I had no fear of the Big City or the rats.
All I could see were brownstones,
speakeasies and Friday sessions
with Zora and Langston.
I have both pen and paper.
I want to go breathe the air.
I know the footprints can still be seen.
In Harlem I will find the ingredients of my Renaissance.
The spirit of spirit.
I have both pen and paper.
Which train, which train do I take to Harlem?

 

Minstrel Man

They are used to being entertained by us.
Even old field hollers can move the moon
It’s like something only we humans do:
A dark and dandy deed at twilight.

Even old field hollers can move the moon.
Then we paint in colors and faces.
A dark and dandy deed at twilight:
Walking in the dust of children’s bones.

Then we paint in colors and faces
We got all that jig and that jive, see?
Walking in the dust of children’s bones:
Could be bebop or ballet or both.

We got all that jig and that jive, see?
From Middle Passage to Carnegie Hall
Could be bebop or ballet or both:
brings satin and patent leather swan songs.

From Middle Passage to Carnegie Hall
It’s like something only we humans do
bring satin and patent leather swan songs:
They are used to being entertained by us.

 

Dear Future African-Americans,

Like smoke from many fires,
My mind drifted often through swamp,
Cotton fields, and woods to you.
I dreamed of you:
Wearin’ shoes daily,
Readin’ books in school,
goin’ to college,
gettin’ ya Master’s.
I saw you in ya fine living room,
I saw you pound a gavel,
I saw you in ya office,
I saw you in the operating room,
And I saw you in the White House.

I dreamed of all ya businesses,
you ownin’ the buildings,
and all ya big ideas comin’ to life.
I dreamed of you in all ya glory.

Then I waded through the maze of years
in this swamp called America.
I set fires, doused fires
And laid brick upon brick upon brick
Until I had built you a house.

Yvette R. Murray is an award-winning poet and the author of Hush, Puppy (Finishing Line Press 2023). She has been published in Chestnut Review, Aunt Chloe, Emrys Journal, Litmosphere, A Gathering Together, and others. She is the 2022 Susan Laughter Meyers Weymouth Fellow, a 2021 Best New Poet selection, a Watering Hole Fellow, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Find her on Twitter @MissYvettewrites or at Missyvettewrites@gmail.com.

Featured image in this post: Museum of Hartlepool, via Wikimedia Commons

Editor
Editorhttp://www.dayeight.org
Bourgeon’s mission, through our online publication and community initiatives, is twofold: to increase participation in the arts and to improve access to the arts. Bourgeon is a project of the not-for-profit Day Eight.
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