Dear John, Dear Coltrane

By Michael S. Harper b. 1938

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 this 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 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, "Dear John, Dear Coltrane" from Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Michael S. Harper. Reprinted with the permission of University of Illinois Press, www.press.uillinois.edu/poetry/poetry.html.

Source: Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems (University of Illinois Press, 2000)

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Poet Michael S. Harper b. 1938

Subjects Music, Health & Illness, Love, Living, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Desire, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

Occasions Gratitude & Apologies

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Michael S. Harper

Biography

Acclaimed poet and teacher Michael S. Harper was born in 1938, in Brooklyn, New York. Known his innovative use of jazz rhythms, cultural allusion, historical referent and personal narrative, Harper is “a deeply complex poet whose mission is to unite the fractured, inhumane technologies of our time with the abiding deep well of Negro folk traditions,” said John Callahan in the New Republic. Harper does this, noted Poetry reviewer . . .

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SUBJECT Music, Health & Illness, Love, Living, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Desire, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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