By Henry Dumas 1934–1968 Henry Dumas
Vodu green clinching his waist,
obi purple ringing his neck,
Shango, God of the spirits,
whispering in his ear,
thunderlight stabbing the island
of blood rising from his skull.

Mojo bone in his fist
strikes the sun from his eye.
Iron claw makes his wrist.
He recalls the rites of strength
carved upon his chest.
Black flame, like tongues of glass,
ripples beneath a river of sweat.

Strike the island!
Strike the sun!
Strike the eye of evil!
Strike the guilty one!

No power can stay the mojo
when the obi is purple
and the vodu is green
and Shango is whispering,
Bathe me in blood.
I am not clean.

Henry Dumas, “Rite” from The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas, published by Thunder's Mouth Press. Copyright © 1968-2010 by Loretta Dumas and Eugene B. Redmond. Used by permission of the Hentry Dumas Estate, Eugene B. Redmond, Executor.

Source: The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989)

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Poet Henry Dumas 1934–1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Religion, Other Religions, The Spiritual

 Henry  Dumas


Fiction writer and poet Henry Dumas was born in Sweet Home, Arkansas, but moved to Harlem when he was 10. He attended City College in New York before joining the Air Force; he was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and on the Arabian Peninsula. Dumas attended Rutgers University and worked for a year at IBM, then left the company to teach and direct language workshops at Southern Illinois University. He and his wife, Loretta . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Other Religions, The Spiritual

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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