Happy Birthday, Marcus Garvey!

Harlem, 1918

Passing him in the street, you'd never believe
that this "sawed-off hammered down black man,"
standing on a ladder so he could see above the crowd,
could lift thousands of black men, hard men, dice

men, to their feet-- that this round-faced Negro, 
who looked as if he hadn't eaten anything 
but "sardines, salmon and beans" from a can, 
and with shoes so cracked, you could lose a week's 

pay in the holes. But when he growled 
like one of those Hoodoo men from New Orleans, 
and stretched out his arms as welcoming as the mouth
of the Mississippi, he could have led us through Harlem

to the Nile, and we would have followed him past the white
men's rage when he said, "Rise up, ye, mighty people. Accomplish 
what you will," then, we rejoined, "Speak, Garvey, speak,"
and the Holy Spirit descended on the congregation.

From my forthcoming collection of poems, LETTER FROM MARCUS GARVEY


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