An Ode To Lost Love

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[Dwayne Betts]

Last time there was an Etheridge Knight sighting here I mentioned this poem, "Feeling Fucked Up." And as we're on the verge of father's day—I thought one good Etheridge story was in order. The back story on Etheridge is important—but you can read it just about anywhere. Particularly here and here. The main thing I'll say about the man is this: he came up writing in the black arts movement, and he, in his work, was in many ways about to transcend the movement. A lot of the criticism that black writers get is because historically black writers have often been writing, in part, against the prevalent definitions of blackness or in service of political aims. I don't think those things in and of themselves make a work of art less worthy of our attention, but I do think it probably weakens the minor writers' work of any generation (BAM, Harlem Renaissance, etc.)


With that said, Knight didn't fall victim to this, in my mind, cause he was ill—and really after a truth that was willing to present characters, figures and visions of himself that were flawed.

Here's the poem

Feeling Fucked Up
by Etheridge Knight

Lord she's gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white    crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs—
Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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