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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.

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REX USA/Sten Rosenlund


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.


"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.


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.


arrive tonight.

How dull time is!

How empty—and yet,

since I am sitting here,

lying here,

walking up and down here,


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,
to fall into the hands of the living God.


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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