A poem for Amiri Baraka: Whisper by Greg Ruggiero

abGreg Ruggiero, editor of the City Lights Open Media Series, writes:

“I was good friends with Amiri Baraka—I think Allen Ginsberg first introduced us at a poetry reading in Newark in the early 1990s and in 1994 I published Baraka’s poem “Funk Lore” as a pamphlet. The morning after the news broke about Amiri’s unexpected passing, I felt inspired and wrote a few lines for him.”

Whisper
by Greg Ruggiero

Amiri Baraka

Today we remember your voice,

your poem,

your song,

your rap,

your jazz,

your walk,

your improv,

your cry—so dark and tragic/ so old and magic—

your shuffle,

your shine,

your shout,

your line,

your fight back;

your join-us-so-we-win,

your black word and blues voice an insurgent Newark street corner trombone, freeing songs from still-enslaved lessons of history,

a holler from the broken rooftop, a train whistle beneath the moon,

a gathering whisper from the fields, from the factories, from the high rise, from the underground, from the classrooms, from the jails and prisons

murmuring the Word: rise up, fight back, organize, unite, get it together, fight forward, fight on and

dig it:  sing the deep groove, ride the sparkling cymbal, slide the walking bass, fly the soaring horn, rise with the unexpected surge;

dig the unfolding unpredictable sound of people, poetry, lovers, families, school, neighborhoods, movements, rebellions,

block by block, community by community,

rising up together, singing out, finding our voice, awakening, struggling, resisting, winning,

teaching, learning, being.

Today a piano on the ground floor of a home on South 10th Street in Newark has gone silent.

The books of poetry there remain unopened.

Will we sing the piano’s song?

Will we speak the poem’s Word?

Will we carry forth the whisper from the fields?

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