Soul and race
are private dominions,   
memories and modal
songs, a tenor blossoming,
which would paint suffering   
a clear color but is not in   
this Victorian house
without oil in zero degree
weather and a forty-mile-an-hour wind;
it is all a well-knit family:   
a love supreme.
Oak leaves pile up on walkway
and steps, catholic as apples
in a special mist of clear white   
children who love my children.   
I play “Alabama”
on a warped record player
skipping the scratches
on your faces over the fibrous   
conical hairs of plastic
under the wooden floors.

Dreaming on a train from New York   
to Philly, you hand out six
notes which become an anthem
to our memories of you:
oak, birch, maple,
apple, cocoa, rubber.
For this reason Martin is dead;
for this reason Malcolm is dead;
for this reason Coltrane is dead;
in the eyes of my first son are the browns   
of these men and their music.

  • Michael S. Harper, “Here Where Coltrane Is” from Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Michael S. Harper. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.

  • Source: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (University of Illinois Press, 1997)

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"With a $20,000 prize, I never imagined POL being this much fun. The competitions were more about meeting and talking with the other competitors, having a great time and enjoying the poetry. I also never knew I could find so much in myself just from reciting poems."
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