The Zebra Goes Wild Where the Sidewalk Ends

By Henry Dumas 1934–1968 Henry Dumas
I
Neon stripes tighten my wall
where my crayon landlord hangs
from a bent nail.

My black father sits crooked
in the kitchen
drunk on Jesus’ blood turned
to cheap wine.

In his tremor he curses
the landlord who grins
from inside the rent book.

My father’s eyes are
bolls of cotton.

He sits upon the landlord’s
operating table,
the needle of the nation
sucking his soul.

II
Chains of light race over
my stricken city.
Glittering web spun by
the white widow spider.

I see this wild arena
where we are harnessed
by alien electric shadows.

Even when the sun washes
the debris
I will recall my landlord
hanging in my room
and my father moaning in
Jesus’ tomb.

In America all zebras
are in the zoo.

I hear the piston bark
and ibm spark:
let us program rabies.
the madness is foaming now.

No wild zebras roam the American plain.
The mad dogs are running.
The African zebra is gone into the dust.

I see the shadow thieves coming
and my father on the specimen table.

Henry Dumas, “The Zebra Goes Wild Where the Sidewalk Ends” 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 Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Money & Economics, Race & Ethnicity, Class, Cities & Urban Life

 Henry  Dumas

Biography

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 Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Money & Economics, Race & Ethnicity, Class, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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