the louderARTS Project

Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess, a Cave Canem Fellow, was on the 2000 and 2001 Chicago Green Mill Slam teams. He won the 2001 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award, an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry for 2000 - 2001, and the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award.

Jess' fiction and poetry have appeared in Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Beyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century, Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry, Soulfires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence, Dark Matter 2: Reading the Bones, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art. His first non-fiction book, African American Pride, was published in December of 2003.



when i speak of blues be clear

i locate myself in the north american continent,
where creek and sioux and seminole cemented their blood with mine,
where rape ran crosswise with rosary prayers,
where I stood outweighed, outgunned, outside
and .66 a human being on the legal scale,
while hung full weight of man, woman or child from poplar and oak.

when i speak of blues
i speak sunshine and rain from one mouth.
i am a two headed doctor spitting bullet and gospel verse,
     coffin and cakewalk,
     stagolee and ma rainey,
     jazz in the juke of the jailhouse jump.

when i speak of blues
i identify the root,
the parallel holler to gospel
that cuts straight through to hoodoo.
the hotline to all secrets behind each moan and groan
of the seventh son of the seventh son on the seven day creep.

i flew in on the breath of slave boats
and settled in john de conquer roots.
i took a drum when my tongue was strung and strangled
and struck out a beat to call it language.

i tread quilted blood and birth stories
from backwater black hands.
i survived subsisting on guitar string and harmonica breath.
i survived bible and bullwhip,
parchman penitentiaries and tuskegee tests.

i make love on the border line between life and death sentence

take the boo in my boogie
and make it funk the night air
with ribtipchitlin smoke and watermelon rind.
walk in the shoes of ancient djali memory
to taste middle passage in my skin

and sing:

if i am blues, i am water and i am sky
if i am blues, i am water and i am sky
this blood will run forever,
these blues will never die...



© Tyehimba Jess



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