Way Out West

By Amiri Baraka 1934–2014 Amiri Baraka

(For Gary Snyder)

As simple an act
as opening the eyes. Merely   
coming into things by degrees.

Morning: some tear is broken   
on the wooden stairs
of my lady’s eyes. Profusions   
of green. The leaves. Their   
constant prehensions. Like old   
junkies on Sheridan Square, eyes   
cold and round. There is a song   
Nat Cole sings . . . This city   
& the intricate disorder   
of the seasons.

Unable to mention   
something as abstract as time.

Even so, (bowing low in thick   
smoke from cheap incense; all   
kinds questions filling the mouth,   
till you suffocate & fall dead   
to opulent carpet.) Even so,

shadows will creep over your flesh   
& hide your disorder, your lies.

There are unattractive wild ferns   
outside the window
where the cats hide. They yowl   
from there at nights. In heat   
& bleeding on my tulips.

Steel bells, like the evil
unwashed Sphinx, towing in the twilight.   
Childless old murderers, for centuries   
with musty eyes.

I am distressed. Thinking
of the seasons, how they pass,
how I pass, my very youth, the
ripe sweet of my life; drained off . . .

Like giant rhesus monkeys;   
picking their skulls,
with ingenious cruelty
sucking out the brains.

No use for beauty
collapsed, with moldy breath   
done in. Insidious weight   
of cankered dreams. Tiresias’   
weathered cock.

Walking into the sea, shells   
caught in the hair. Coarse   
waves tearing the tongue.

Closing the eyes. As   
simple an act. You float

Amiri Baraka, “Way Out West” from Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961-1995 (New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1995). Copyright ? 1995 by Amiri Baraka. Reprinted with the permission of Sll/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Source: Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones 1961-1995 (1995)

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Poet Amiri Baraka 1934–2014

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Growing Old, Living, Landscapes & Pastorals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Amiri  Baraka


Poet, writer, teacher, and political activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University and Howard University, spent three years in the U.S. Air Force, and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. Baraka was well known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that made it difficult . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Growing Old, Living, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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