Clan Meeting: Births and Nations: A Blood Song

By Michael S. Harper b. 1938
We reconstruct lives in the intensive   
care unit, pieced together in a buffet   
dinner: two widows with cancerous breasts   
in their balled hands; a 30-year-old man   
in a three-month coma
from a Buick and a brick wall;
a woman who bleeds off and on from her gullet;
a prominent socialite, our own nurse,   
shrieking for twins, “her bump gone”;   
the gallery of veterans, succored,
awake, without valves, some lungs gone.

Splicing the meats with fluids
seasoned on the dressing room
table, she sings “the bump gone”
refrain in this 69-degree oven,
unstuffing her twin yolks
carved from the breast, the dark meat   
wrapped in tinfoil and clean newspaper;
the half black registered nurse   
hums her six years in an orphanage,   
her adopted white family,
breaded and primed in a posse,
rising in clan for their dinner.

We reload our brains as the cameras,   
the film overexposed
in the x-ray light,
locked with our double door
light meters: race and sex
spooled and rungs in a hobby;
we take our bundle and go home.

Michael S. Harper, “Clan Meeting: Births and Nations: A Blood Song” from History is Your Own Heartbeat (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1971). Copyright © 1971 by Michael S. Harper. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: History Is Your Own Heartbeat (University of Illinois Press, 1971)

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Poet Michael S. Harper b. 1938

Subjects Birth & Birthdays, Health & Illness, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Michael S. Harper


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 Birth & Birthdays, Health & Illness, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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