November 9, 2012

Poem of the Week: Underground USA, 1952


Kenneth Neil Cameron

even in this small town
in the dark
its still twice around the block
before you ring
('cause, brother, they can get
you for that,
that dynamite you're carrying
you even got Marx in there.)

but when the door opens
and the light falls
on her dark, womanly face
(mother of two, 15 bucks a week
for keeping white folks kitchens)
and you see the deep, friendly strength in her eyes
and beyond, in the light within
the other faces, white and black,
laughing, yearning, unafraid
calling to you,
you are not afraid either.

from Poems For Lovers And Rebels

[Cameron, as befit a leading scholar of Shelley's poetry, wrote some fine rebel verse himself. There are at least two other I may use in future years, if I can keep this up, This is one of his less formal poems, and I chose it because I realize that to speak of the underground today is to call up the 1970s, the BLA and the Weatherfolk. But state repression of the Communist Party in the 1950s also sent hundreds underground. So this is a reminder that we must be prepared for it to happen again. It also is a deceptively simple poem, because it's actually about being afraid while organizing, the fear unstated until the last lines, where it is not, it seems to me, so much banished, as acknowledged and handled.]

No comments: