Poetry for Southern California






Five Poems by Al Young

(From Heaven: Collected Poems 1956 Ė 1990)

The Blues Donít Change

Now Iíll tell you about the Blues.
All Negroes like Blues. Why?
Because they was born with the Blues.
And now everybody have the Blues.
Sometimes they donít know what it is.

And I was born with you, wasnít I, Blues?
Wombed with you, wounded, reared and forwarded
from address to address, stamped, stomped
and returned to sender by nobody but you,
Blue Rider, writing me off every chance you
got, you mean old grudgeful-hearted, table-
turning demon, you, you sexy soul-sucking gem.

Blue diamond in the rough, you are forever.
You canít be outfoxed donít care how they cut
and smuggle and shine you on, youíre like a
shadow, too dumb and stubborn and necessary
to let them turn you into what you ainít
with color or theory or power or paint.

Thatís how you can stay in style without sticking
and not getting stuck. You know how to sting
where I canít scratch, and you move from frying
pan to skillet the same way you move people
to go to wiggling their bodies, juggling their
limbs, loosening that goose, upping their voices,
opening their pores, rolling their hips and lips.

They can shake their boodies but they canít shake you.


She talks too loud, her face
a blur of wrinkles & sunshine
where her hard hair shivers
from laughter like a pine tree
stiff with oils & hotcombing

O & her anger realer than gasoline
slung into fire or lighted mohair
Sheís a clothes lover from way back
but her bodyís too big to be chic
or on cue so she wear what she want
People just gotta stand back &
take it like they do Easter Sunday when
the rainbow she travels is dry-cleaned

She laughs more than ever in spring
stomping the downtowns, Saturday past
work, looking into JC Pennyís checking
out Sears & bragging about how when she
feel like it she gon lose weight &
give up smoking one of these sorry days

Her eyes are diamonds of pure dark space
& the air flying out of them as you look
close is only the essence of living
to tell, a full-length woman, an aunt
brown & red with stalking the years

So Is There Life on You, Moon?

So is there life on you, Moon?
Some mystics say yes & most
scientists say no. What do
you say, moon of moons?
Is there life on you?

How about inside those rocks
of yours? Are you sure
there isnít some microscopic
form of mini-seeded life-
in-embryo embedded or pillowed
in the dandruff you harbor
by all your dead & tranquil seas?

Itís fun to talk about all this,
but academic, you must admit.
I look at you & know youíre partly me.
For now, thatís life enough.

See, See, Moon

See, see moon, O see what you done done
(or is it done did?) I donít know
the right way to talk to you no more,
nor do I care that you donít answer me.
Iíve walked into rooms their windows
overflowed with light & fresh air
& understood how big plugs of skylessness
can get translated into versions of illusion;
blinded beauty in all its fullness.

* * *

But when the blues overtakes you,
every little once in a while,
bluegummed moon, all explanations fail
it seems, but no, the blues
by any other name would be
just as funky.
Why should it be so difficult
to pin the color of your sorrow.

Dreams of Paradise

Ive had dreams of Paradise where all you do is open your heart
& let the endlessness ooze out. It is quite something to go thru.
One night in Detroitóthe death of my stepfatheróweary &
hopeful of everything, I lay in bed grieving & wondering,
whereupon, 4 in the morn, the whole room began to expand &
I with it, giddy with silent affirmationóthat is to say: It was
the feeling I feel each of us is rightfully entitled to & it doesnít
happen out in the world of gold & crashing but is a perfect
withinness, a peacefulness & surprise that is unkillable