To my dear nephew, Najeeb W. Harb, who died 3/24/89.


My sister received neighbors and parents of his school mates. One child’s mother, a mauve dark beauteous woman, vivid lipstick, recounted how her uncle loved the Martini straight up in that pyramidal crystal as I guzzled mine to the base of its vertex and talked louder after each swallow and thought, at least you still have your child. But the enchanting hollow of her cleavage shamed to earth my jealous impulse. My father told new stories of the brakeless arrival of his supply truck convoy in Normandy a day after D-Day and never gets mentioned in documentaries. Then tearful.

We entered foreboding pockets of memory until later, having spurned our mother’s offer of a plot, we chose the urn that would bear his cremation and longed for the cracked strains of an old wax hymn:

                 Yeh-eh. . . .

                 You say that I’m the only one.

                But will my heart be broken,

               when the night meets the

              morning . . . . .

Pocket Poems for National Poetry Month

Bantu death

We can’t even be our children’s keepers. Neither in the U.S. or South Africa. We can’t even protect them, even when we are on the spot, in the space. Four shots in the arm, two in the head for some convenience store cigars—a big boy—left four hours on a taped sidewalk in Midwest U.S. August heat.

And how was that little dyke murdered in Ventersdorp? Was she raped in her ‘Awesome. Awesome. Awesome’ green, yellow, and black tee shirt and over-sized baseball cap? What about that hose forced to drip down her throat?

You’re right, whoever said it, no metaphor can stop six or a gang of dicks.

We can’t expect democracy to put an end to violence in our souls, remnants of the 350 year torture of mothers brothers fathers sisters. Children. Violence–a most democratic force.


song and table

What a stout song was my mother in her day. A looker. Beautiful too her octoroon skin and black suede high heeled pumps.Shrunken at the end and cursing it.

Neighbors sat with my father while he went out. He said not a word, just gestured, hand extending toward that table of long gone loved ones whose voices beckoned him on. I heard them, too. Yes, I did. They did not allow me to sit. No, they didn’t. But I saw them.


Oh Memory Fateful and Fatal: Elegy 1963

how many anniversaries can anyone accommodate in one week not to live in anticipation of events to become next year’s celebrations and memorializations?

Jackson, Mississippi: ‘NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers Shot’ in the back getting out of his car in front of his house and strong man that he is, drags himself up by the car door handle, staggering up the steps, collapsing on his front porch as Mrs. Evers, the three little Evers, and awakened neighbors look on hysterically, one firing a shot to scare off the assailant.

Washington, D.C.: Our neighbor, the widow Mrs. Flowers, joins us full of hope as we ride the bus to the Lincoln Memorial on that hot August day for ‘Jobs and Freedom,’ returning to watch ‘I Have a Dream’ on television. Tipped off by FBI, Maryland State Police turn back Klansmen just outside the District line, carful of weapons.

Birmingham, Alabama: when Mrs. Davis, a neighbor, drove a frantic Mrs. Robertson to the 16th Street Baptist Church where the dynamite detonated into the basement choir practice, the news of her daughter Carole’s death was broken to Mrs. Robertson by her father, ‘She’s gone, baby. ‘

Dallas, Texas: asked by an aide if she would like to ‘clean up’ from the blood, Mrs. Kennedy advised, ‘Let them see what they have done.’