Here Where Coltrane Is

By Michael S. Harper b. 1938
Soul and race
are private dominions,   
memories and modal
songs, a tenor blossoming,
which would paint suffering   
a clear color but is not in   
this Victorian house
without oil in zero degree
weather and a forty-mile-an-hour wind;
it is all a well-knit family:   
a love supreme.
Oak leaves pile up on walkway
and steps, catholic as apples
in a special mist of clear white   
children who love my children.   
I play “Alabama”
on a warped record player
skipping the scratches
on your faces over the fibrous   
conical hairs of plastic
under the wooden floors.

Dreaming on a train from New York   
to Philly, you hand out six
notes which become an anthem
to our memories of you:
oak, birch, maple,
apple, cocoa, rubber.
For this reason Martin is dead;
for this reason Malcolm is dead;
for this reason Coltrane is dead;
in the eyes of my first son are the browns   
of these men and their music.

Michael S. Harper, “Here Where Coltrane Is” from Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Michael S. Harper. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.

Source: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (University of Illinois Press, 1997)

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Poet Michael S. Harper b. 1938

Subjects Winter, Arts & Sciences, Heroes & Patriotism, Nature, Race & Ethnicity, Social Commentaries, Living, Music, Parenthood

 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Winter, Arts & Sciences, Heroes & Patriotism, Nature, Race & Ethnicity, Social Commentaries, Living, Music, Parenthood

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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