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In her writing, Pat Parker developed a fully authentic and revolutionary voice grounded in her experiences growing up Black and female in south Texas of the 1940s, and coming out as a lesbian in California of the late 1960s. The power of her poetry was profoundly fueled by three murders that directly impacted her life. Of course, all the usual harassments, injuries, insults, deprivations, exotifications and objectifications—heaped on Black women especially—came her way. The terror of being publicly gay, of losing community support as a person of color, of being misunderstood by her parents, also came her way. But I would say the murders pushed her over some edge of motivation to either withdraw completely or go to the front of the line with a big bad sword in hand and lead a revolution. This latter is what she did.
In English Lit., they told me
Kafka was good
because he created
the best nightmares ever –
I think I should
go find that professor
& ask why
we didn’t study
the S.F. Police Dept.
For the white person who wants to know how to be my friend
The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.
You should be able to dig Aretha,
but don’t play her every time i come over.
And if you decide to play Beethoven – don’t tell me
his life story. They made us take music appreciation too.
Eat soul food if you like it,
but don’t expect me to locate your restaurants
or cook it for you.
And if some Black person insults you,
mugs you, rapes your sister, rapes you,
rips your house, or is just being an ass –
please, do not apologize to me
for wanting to do them bodily harm.
It makes me wonder if you’re foolish.
And even if you really believe Blacks are better lovers than
whites – don’t tell me. I start thinking of charging stud fees.
In other words – if you really want to be my friend – don’t
make a labor of it. I’m lazy. Remember.
Sweet Sweet Jimmy
Your words are razors
cutting through coke
and the world listens
The sharpness of your anger
frightens – they scuttle
to contain you –
The new Richard Wright
and the anger rises
Sweet Sweet Prince Jimmy
Are you resting well?
Does sleep cool the rage?
Photograph of Pat Parker © 2016 JEB (Joan E. Biren).