Poem and Farewell,” a tribute to Jayne Cortez By AMIRI BARAKA

The Swahili word
For Holocaust
is Maafaa!
So if you ask us
How has it been
For Blacks
in America?
We say
It’s been
A Maafaa!
-AB
JayneV

 

That’s why great artists make us stronger, we use their penetrations of the world to strengthen and harden and make even more rational our own. At first it was Jayne’s striking domestication of the weapon of surreal re-encountering of the world, to stand it on its metaphorical head, or rip into its ontological guts: “I am New York City/here is my brain of hot sauce/my tobacco teeth my/mattress of bedbug tongue.” Then it was her swiftly radicalizing vision of place and who were her and our friends and enemies in that actual and philosophical place. For instance, Jayne loved the great musicians and poets of our world, and their descriptions and incantations of this place. Christopher Okigbo, Henry Dumas she raised in, “For The Poets,” for our deeper understanding. “I need kai kai ah/a glass of akpetesie ah/ from torn arm of Bessie Smith ah.” A deep internationalist, Jayne could tell us “I see Chano Pozo” “Is there anyone finer today ole okay/Oye I say/ I see Chano Pozo/Chano Pozo from Havana Cuba” so we can dig that Afro-Cuban connect joined at the Hip and take us “to the spirit house of Antonio Maceo.”

 

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She presented the persons, their rituals, their image and their sound, their meaning. Their and our lives and deaths. As well as the flesh eating lives of our enemies. “I need …the broken ankles of a BJ Vorster (and she’d tell us why, straight out)…Because they’ll try to and shoot us/like they shot Henry Dumas… huh/ because we massacre each other/and Christopher Okigbo is dead uh-huh/ because I’m not a bystander uh huh/because mugging is not my profession uh huhn.” She raised and supported the great persons and spirits who were her and our muses and inspirations not only the artists but the warriors, the fighters specially the women. For Fannie Lou Hamer “Big Fine Woman From Ruleville” in the deeply moving tribute “I kiss the mud of this moment” to slam Fannie Lou’s life and work and Jayne’s celebration of it into us alive and pulsing. In “Rape” the poem about Inez Garcia and Joanne Little, Jayne says, “What was Inez supposed to do for/ the man who carved a combat zone between her /breasts…she stood with a rifle in her hand/doing what a defense department will do in time of/ war…she pumped lead into his three hundred pounds of / shaking flesh….then celebrated day of the dead rapist punk/and just what the fuck else was she supposed to do.” “And what was Joanne supposed to for/ the man who declared war on her life.” Jayne tells us , “Joanne came down with an ice pick in…yes in the fat neck of that racist policeman/Joanne did the dance of the icepicks and once again/ from coast to coast /house to house/we celebrated day of the dead rapist punk/ and just what the fuck else were we supposed to do.” In defense of our real lives against these actual madmen murderers of too many of us, she could chant “Bring back the life of Claude Reese Jr/the blackness called dangerous weapon…I want the life of the blackness of Claude Reese Jr/ I want the bullet from his head to /to make a protective staff for startled children.” Jayne’s poetry? Don’t get me started. I’ll give an entire reading, but the very old dude whom she married limited me to a few minutes, but it’s hard not to go on and on about her great work. Only suicidal folks don’t care if poets die. I agree I might be saying that because of my own gig. But further than that, when you lose poets it means you could be quickly surrounded by officially imbecilic citoyens without the required poetic disinfectant to cool they nonsense out. I mean how you live with a Russ Limbaugh without a Jayne telling you “ My friend/they don’t care/if you’re an individualist/a leftist a rightist/a shit head or a snake/ They will try to exploit you /absorb you disconnect you isolate you/or kill you.” How you live with a Tom Ass Clarence and his toxic mate and their democracy killing Citizens United without a Jayne around to say …”.And if we don’t fight/ if we don’t resist/if we don’t organize and unify and/get the power to control our own lives/then we will wear the exaggerate look of captivity.” I mean how can you exist in a small space like our cities without a Jayne somewhere saying: “To the memory of Larry Neal” that there are “No Simple Explanations” say if you are talking to some constipated under- punk who is the May whore, without Jayne (or it might be Sekou or Louis Reyes or Lucille… bless them forever) there in your mind’s ear , “There are no simple explanations/not for the excesses/not for the accumulations….not for the heart/ready to shoot off like a volcano.” Because for the poets there are no simple explanations, but there are simple truths which we must grasp if we are to survive otherwise, “suddenly it will be too soon/suddenly it will be too late/suddenly it will be too sudden.” Jayne’s fears like her courage to confront them was real. That we had to deal with those simple truths, which she relentlessly conveyed to us with a grand convoy of amazing music and armor piercing metaphor…that we are oppressed and exploited often hypnotized into not seeking equal rights and self-determination but we could buoyed up ,raised ,set afire, with the poets ecstasy of digging this clearly, of understanding, of being transformed by this explosive revelation , you know, you know , you know …and there it is. And we will miss her and them, like part of our brain has gone away. Hey, let’s give some giant readings of Jayne’s and these great gone poets’ works very soon.

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