Home Boy

by Mwatabu S. Okantah

i remember we called
him, "Big
Daddy Elmer Cook"--
Ma Beulah's
we were in junior high school.
he was into A Love Supreme in 1966.
he was into wing'd tipped shoes,
but, he never conk'd
his head.

Elmer was into John Coltrane.
he was into Thelonious Monk.
he was into the "new music"
years before i would
learn it was 
i had been summer camp'd
into Top 40 radio "Cousin Brucie,"
integrated into
pale "rock and roll."

i remember Big Daddy's
box front room on Oregon Street.
he didn't read comic books.
Trane music blasted
myopic Marvel Super Heroes--
like Miles Davis,
Elmer knew the real thing.
even then, he refused to allow
the other stuff
entry into his world.
he slept in Blues

the sounds inside Elmer's room
saved my memory:
at Kent State i remembered Coltrane.
white blood ran in the streets
there one 70s May.
it left white
folks with a nagging after-
Nixon need
for the Average White Band--
white boys turned to black blues
in search of the soul
their own history stole
from them.

i had gone off to college.
Big Daddy went off
to Viet Nam--
neither of us came home the same.
war, and whitefolks
seared scars across the bare
flesh of our souls.
we heard it in Eric Dolphy's
Far Cry.
we saw it in Thelonious Monk's
Ugly Beauty.
we felt it in Bud Powell's
frantic piano sadness;
horn solos
gave voice to feelings found in places
spoken words dare not tread.

i remember,
we called him, "Big Daddy ..."
the last time i saw
was standing on the corner,
he had that far
away look;
his eyes set deeply
deep in his head.

Home Boy by Mwatabu S. Okantah

© Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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