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"I Don’t Feel Death Coming / I Feel Death Going": 3 Poems By James Baldwin

Here are three poems excerpted from Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems, out today from Beacon Press. Happy National Poetry Month!

REX USA/Sten Rosenlund

“Amen”


No, I don’t feel death coming.
I feel death going:
having thrown up his hands,
for the moment.

I feel like I know him
better than I did.
Those arms held me,
for a while,
and, when we meet again,
there will be that secret knowledge
between us.

James Foote / Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM

“Le sporting-club de Monte Carlo (for Lena Horne)”


The lady is a tramp
a camp
a lamp

The lady is a sight
a might
a light
the lady devastated
an alley or two
reverberated through the valley
which leads to me, and you

the lady is the apple
of God’s eye:
He’s cool enough about it
but He tends to strut a little
when she passes by

the lady is a wonder
daughter of the thunder
smashing cages
legislating rages
with the voice of ages
singing us through.

REX USA/SNAP / Rex

“Munich, Winter 1973 (for Y.S.)”


In a strange house,
a strange bed
in a strange town,
a very strange me
is waiting for you.

Now
it is very early in the morning.
The silence is loud.
The baby is walking about
with his foaming bottle,
making strange sounds
and deciding, after all,
to be my friend.

You
arrive tonight.

How dull time is!
How empty—and yet,
since I am sitting here,
lying here,
walking up and down here,
waiting,
I see
that time’s cruel ability
to make one wait
is time’s reality.

I see your hair
which I call red.
I lie here in this bed.

Someone teased me once,
a friend of ours—
saying that I saw your hair red
because I was not thinking
of the hair on your head.

Someone also told me,
a long time ago:
my father said to me,
It is a terrible thing,
son,
to fall into the hands of the living God.

Now,
I know what he was saying.
I could not have seen red
before finding myself
in this strange, this waiting bed.
Nor had my naked eye suggested

Excerpted from Jimmy’s Blues & Other Poems by James Baldwin. Copyright 2014. Excerpted with permission by Beacon Press.

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