Gwendolyn Brooks

she doesn’t wear
costume jewelry
& she knew that walt disney
was/is making a fortune off
false-eyelashes and that time magazine is the
authority on the knee/grow.
her makeup is total-real.

a negro english instructor called her:
       “a fine negro poet.”
a whi-te critic said:
       “she’s a credit to the negro race.”
somebody else called her;
       “a pure negro writer.”
johnnie mae, who’s a senior in high school said:
       “she and Langston are the only negro poets we’ve
       read in school and i understand her.”
pee wee used to carry one of her poems around in his
    back pocket;
       the one about being cool. that was befo pee wee
       was cooled by a cop’s warning shot.

into the sixties
a word was born . . . . . . . . BLACK
& with black came poets
& from the poet’s ball points came:
black doubleblack purpleblack blueblack beenblack was
black daybeforeyesterday blackerthan ultrablack super
black blackblack yellowblack niggerblack blackwhi-te-
       man
blackthanyoueverbes ¼ black unblack coldblack clear
black my momma’s blackerthanyourmomma pimpleblack
       fall
black so black we can’t even see you black on black in
black by black technically black mantanblack winter
black coolblack 360degreesblack coalblack midnight
black black when it’s convenient rustyblack moonblack
black starblack summerblack electronblack spaceman
black shoeshineblack jimshoeblack underwearblack ugly
black auntjimammablack, uncleben’srice black
       williebest
black blackisbeautifulblack i justdiscoveredblack negro
black unsubstanceblack.

and everywhere the
lady “negro poet”
appeared the poets were there.
they listened & questioned
& went home feeling uncomfortable/unsound & so-
       untogether
they read/re-read/wrote & rewrote
& came back the next time to tell the
lady “negro poet”
how beautiful she was/is & how she helped them
& she came back with:
       how necessary they were and how they’ve helped her.
the poets walked & as space filled the vacuum between
       them & the
lady “negro poet”
u could hear one of the blackpoets say:
       “bro, they been calling that sister by the wrong name.”

Haki Madhubuti, “Gwendolyn Brooks” from Don't Cry, Scream © 1969 by Haki R. Madhubuti. Used by permission of Third World Press, Chicago, IL.
Source: Don't Cry Scream (Third World Press, 1969)
More Poems by Haki R. Madhubuti