April 15, 2007

Michael S. Harper: “Dear John, Dear Coltrane”

Posted in Music, Poetry at 8:00 am by The Lizard Queen

[Posted in memory of John Coltrane (1926-1967); transcribed while listening to the inimitable album A Love Supreme.]

Dear John, Dear Coltrane

a love supreme, a love supreme
a love supreme, a love supreme

Sex fingers toes
in the marketplace
near your father’s church
in Hamlet, North Carolina—
witness to this love
in the calm fallow
of these minds,
there is no substitute for pain:
genitals gone or going,
seed burned out,
you tuck the roots in the earth,
turn back, and move
by river through the swamps,
singing: a love supreme, a love supreme;
what does it all mean?
Loss, so great each black
woman expects your failure
in mute change, the seed gone.
You plod up into the electric city—
your song now crystal and
the blues. You will pick up the horn
with some will and blow
into the freezing night:
a love supreme, a love supreme

Dawn comes and you cook
up the thick sin ‘tween
impotence and death, fuel
the tenor sax cannibal
heart, genitals and sweat
that makes you clean—
a love supreme, a love supreme

Why you so black?
cause I am
why you so funky?
cause I am
why you so black?
cause I am
why you so sweet?
cause I am
why you so black?
cause I am
a love supreme, a love supreme:

So sick
you couldn’t play Naima,
so flat we ached
for song you’d concealed
with your own blood,
your diseased liver gave
out its purity,
the inflated heart
pumps out, the tenor kiss,
tenor love:
a love supreme, a love supreme—
a love supreme, a love supreme—

–Michael S. Harper, 1970

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