Mules and Women

By Angela Jackson b. 1951 Angela Jackson

with respect to Zora and the Ground of the African Church

Sorrowtalked eye-to-eye forgiven is no mere burden.
The one who sings is no mere beast.
The one who slips the harness of the horror stands alive
            as earth.
 
Today I can watch the wind and it is blue smoke.
I shake myself inside my dress, consider rain and choose
            Shine.
I was walking down Mississippi River Street
            and a ghost stopped me.
No one could see it but me,
standing in the middle of the sidewalk
smilin at a haint with his hat in his hand
     instead of his head when he can tote that too.
 
     When one mule die
     the rest neigh-cry
     till the wagon take the dead thing away.
 
     Mississippi River Street rampant with noise,
     radiant, won’t hold still.
     But I have walked on blue black water.
     Watched dead rise before the wagon came.
 
     Everywhere I see mules,
     open mouths sing blues, then be human, then
     beyond.
 
Funerals, weddings, baptisms
I take off my skin, hang it up
like a soaked quilt to dry the tears
and sweat from feeling. I stand naked before Church,
holding Dr. Watts closer than my sagging, girlish breasts.
My soul wears no clothes when she sing.
It is all being in love with more than one
man who is one whole man you can look into his eyes
without blinking.
 
     Where would I go to hide?
Dr. Watts standing with my skin hooked on his finger
and I am next to him solid and living the song
            with no words     .
that every born-again mule knew in death and in life
            before
birth, now hums true again hot in the chest and throat
breaking natural out the mouth like breathing.
 
     Where would I go to hide?
Sit down, rock my soul like my baby and Dr. Watts
climb in my lap and moan for the milk no mother can buy
            or borrow
only make in hearts of her eyes, in lines of the palms
            of her hands.
And where would I find lines with no skin?
 
     Where would I go to hide?
I tell you I am living now. Like in Mississippi
Grandmama’s bedroom sitting on the high bed
     you could break
          your neck leaving.
Cousin Chubby said fried fish, greens, and cornbread was
good eatin. I am good livin. Blue smoke watching,
naked, haint-smiling, entertaining Dr. Watts, dreaming
of a man with a white liver who can’t kill me,
who love mulish women, hainted ones,
     I am the sainted one
naked with no sense of memory but good like God rocking
hums in my lap and looking for no hiding place even if
wind be blue smoke hurricane and I make red milk
in the hearts of my eyes and reach out my lifelines to
a hopeless haint I can stand myself.
 
Naked now, where would I want to go to hide? From this
funeral wedding death and birth baptism
the sliding tears washing my soul cleaner than
Dr. Watts’ whistle or the look in a sweatin man’s
eyes when he lookin at a perfect, brutal sun
killing him with living while he lick his lips and dream
of water, then put his shoulder behind a woman
guiding him while he dig in and groove the earth
            to the quick
deep endless quick.
 
     Where would I go
     Where would I go to hide this
     yes-crying love yielding beyond flesh yet
     subsumed by sweat
 
     Where would I go naked so
     following blues and Dr. Watts
     like a double-seeing shadow
     standing before you with only blue smoke
     between us
     humming yes and yes and yes
 
     subsumed by sweat and yielding
     beyond mere flesh.
 

Angela Jackson, "Mules and Women" from And All These Roads Be Luminous. Copyright © 1998 by Angela Jackson.  Reprinted by permission of TriQuarterly Books.

Source: And All These Roads Be Luminous (TriQuarterly Books, 1998)

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Poet Angela Jackson b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Religion, Faith & Doubt, The Spiritual, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

 Angela  Jackson

Biography

Born in Greenville, Mississippi, poet Angela Jackson is the fifth of nine children. She spent her early life in Greenville before moving with her family to Chicago’s Southside. Jackson earned a BA at Northwestern University, where she received the Academy of American Poets Prize, and an MA in Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of Chicago. In Chicago, she became a prominent member of the Organization of Black . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Faith & Doubt, The Spiritual, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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