Like Rousseau

By Amiri Baraka 1934–2014 Amiri Baraka
She stands beside me, stands away,   
the vague indifference
of her dreams. Dreaming, to go on,   
and go on there, like animals fleeing   
the rise of the earth. But standing   
intangible, my lust a worked anger
a sweating close covering, for the crudely salty soul.

Then back off, and where you go? Box of words   
and pictures. Steel balloons tied to our mouths.   
The room fills up, and the house. Street tilts.   
City slides, and buildings slide into the river.   
What is there left, to destroy? That is not close,   
or closer. Leaning away in the angle of language.   
Pumping and pumping, all our eyes criss cross
and flash. It is the lovers pulling down empty structures.   
They wait and touch and watch their dreams   
eat the morning.

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), “Like Rousseau” from Poetry (December 1964). Copyright © 1964 by Amiri Baraka. Reprinted with the permission of Sll/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Source: Poetry (December 1964).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the December 1964 issue of Poetry magazine

December 1964
 Amiri  Baraka

Biography

Poet, writer, teacher, and political activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University and Howard University, spent three years in the U.S. Air Force, and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. Baraka was well known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that made it difficult . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Cities & Urban Life, Love, Social Commentaries, Men & Women, Desire, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.