a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Furry Lewis. They walk about our Gothic campus asking students where
Does Lewis live.
We are like, who is Furry Lewis? And why are you asking us?
They were long haired, sweet tempered and determined and we helped them find
Furry Lewis Hippie magic, we thought. They called him up and he said
Furry Lewis lived in a neat bungalow with a wife, girlfriend, minder
—Who are these white folks and you girl with your
Afro hair? Who are you?
Furry was cool. He was used to visits from enthusiasts
New York or Tokyo, did not matter—he was Gentleman
Personified until he played his guitar.
Then a world of bad women, sharp knives, guns,
Spilled blood the howling Klan
Came out of his old man’s mouth.
Running from the twin dogs of war and poverty
Got him out of the hell the Delta could be
And let him listen to children, we were children
In his house. Black revolutionaries said blues don’t matter,
All those “Toms” strumming some dumb guitar.
They surely meant this kindly man with fire in eyes.
When Black Panthers were busted in Memphis,
A fundraiser was organized. And
Who were there—not the Memphis Rhythm and Blues
Establishment, their pimp hats cocked to the side.
Not the rock and roll hippie guys, they were for peace, man.
Nor the young “bloods” brandishing revolutionary rhetoric,
Spooked up, doped out.
There was this old man with a silly first name.
This old bluesman ferociously singing
Lifting up defiant young people.
No shame in his game.
Howling his blues, teaching
Us the sound of revolution—
Power to the people in an old man’s voice.
Ghosts no longer perplex.
The membranes connecting the living and dead
Are so thin and can be breached.
On one side we breathe and talk and sleep and walk
About and take for granted the ease—oh Emily from
Our Town shouts her unheard words—the other ghosts
Nod their approval, but know the gesture useless.
We the living move against that thin line—sometimes
Peering once more into the eyes of a parent long dead
Or a lover whose kisses coasted bodies in our youth
Or the friend from college whose laughter disrupted
The library, most importune. Oh they roam across
Our minds like antelope herds, beautiful daring
But we cannot hear them. We can see again
Eyes that looked into our eyes
At birth or sense touch—the fever that left
In a few days or the slap when something said
Triggers anger. There the ghosts hover
Shift and rumble our dreams
Like owls in early morning demanding
We listen. The winter’s wind sharpens.
We are now willing
To contort our breath into puffs
That hover and shift like ghosts.
Patricia Spears Jones is a poet, playwright, educator and activist. She is a Black Earth Institute Senior Fellow emeritus. Her most recent collection is A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems. She grew up in Arkansas and now lives in Brooklyn.