Amiri Baraka, “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note” … the hum of spiders…

the hum of spiders:
an anthology
of works & words

Amiri Baraka

“Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note”

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus…

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars.
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there…
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.


Amiri Baraka’s poem sticks in my head and will not unread itself. It’s there for good. The work – in such a short space – has as powerful an image of childhood as may be possible. I’m in awe of the way this poem unfolds. Three stark lines anchor the poem – visually and thematically: a desperate run, lost songs, two clasped hands. Remarkable balance.

Distress is ever present – the ground opens, a run for the bus, uncounted stars, holes, an end of song – stretching the human psyche to the edges of real life. It’s a life removed from glamour, intrigue, and epic – a day-to-day setting that W.C. Williams would have applauded. A door opens – such a wonderful trope. And somehow, the child, the poem’s power-center, turns inward – away from father, away from the world, away from misery – in a search for self, and endures.

I do like the fact that Baraka presents the father, although clearly vulnerable, as one who realizes strength in the daughter. He, in poses of reaction to a world he doesn’t understand, is running, counting holes, tiptoeing, while She, prophetic and heroic, is looking – or peeking, an appealing word choice – into the great wilderness.

Undeniably, an impressive piece of writing.

~ by samofthetenthousandthings on January 2, 2016.

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