When a poet dies: Mari Evans

Poet Mari Evans died last month. According to media reports, some 500 mourners attended. Evans had written of her funeral:

When I
I’m sure
I will have a
Big Funeral …

seekers …
coming to see
if I
am really
Dead …
or just
trying to make
Trouble …

Evans was one of the architects of the Black Arts Movement in the US in the 60s and 70s, She was in her 90s when she died, so perhaps her mourners were not so surprised, but she was a beautiful trouble maker, whose words were hopeful, and cutting: Talking about Indianapolis in 1988, she wrote, “What we find is that racism, in this up-South city at the end of the twentieth century, is like a steel strand encased in nylon then covered in some luxurious fabric.”


I am a Black Woman – by Mari Evans
I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
in the night

I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat’s swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew….I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior’s beard

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
on me and be

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