UFO, 2007, by David Huffman. Courtesy the artist and Paulson Fontaine Press

Issue 114, Fall 2021

September 01, 2021

Blues Poems

By Henry Dumas

Employment Blues

 

I been to the factory, even got a card to go to sea
Yeah, I even got a card to merchant the sea
Aint there somebody in this city got a job for poor me?

Been all over town, everybody say the same
Yes, they all sayin the same
I’m so desperated, think I’ll change my name

Gettin interviewed the other day, man say, “Sit down boy”
Yeah, outa work and he say “Sit down boy”
Well I looked at the man and I say, “My fist look like a toy?”

Lookin high and low people
                                          drive a truck or dig a ditch
Yeah, I’ll drive a truck or dig a ditch

Cause without a job, a man’s in an awful fix

 

 

Concentration Camp Blues

 

I aint jokin people, I aint playin around
Wouldnt jive you people, aint playin around
They got the Indian on the reservation
                                    got us in the ghetto town

Like when you down home, tryin to get out
A mule in his stall trying to kick out
You gets to it in the ghetto but you aint got out

Wouldn’t jive you people, this a natural fact
They watchin us all people, a natural fact
The man is plannin to put a harness on my back

So get with it people, let’s get outa his camp
I aint jokin, I got to get outa his camp
Cause the man is ready to number us all with a rubber stamp

 

 

Keep the Faith Blues

 

They say if you ain't got no faith
                                          you keep the blues most all the time
If you ain't got no faith, you keep the blues most all the time
Must be the reason I’m almost bout to lose my mind

I’m tryin to hold on, people, tryin to keep what I got
Yeah, tryin to hold on, tryin hard to keep what I got
But you know the man is steadyin pressin me
                                          bout to bust my natural back

Heard a man say once, you better hold on and keep the faith
He said hold on baby, and keep the faith
People, I swear I’m hold on and all I got left is faith

Yes the world gone crazy, they even talk about God is dead
Yes the world is gone crazy, some say worship the Devil 
                 instead

Well, I’m keeping my own faith, people
Can’t let religion
                             bust open my head.

 

 

The Buster

 

Now when I was a kid, my mama
                                   use to bust me with a switch
                      (I was bad)                           [Spoken]
Now my mama used to bust me with a switch
Now my baby scream “Bust me” and I buster,
                                   cause she so sweet

Now this a dance the buster you gotta learn
Do the buster, a dance you gotta learn
It’ll make you wanto shout,
                                   make your buster burn

Now you put your right foot here
                                   your left foot there
Do a little bustin here a little bustin there
Now what you do with your hands,
                                    I’m tellin you I dont care

Do the buster one, baby it’s good, buster two
Hmmmm buster one, hmmmm buster two

Dance the buster the whole night through

 

 

Outer Space Blues

 

                                           (to Sun Ra Myth)

People, I heard the news the other day
                             like to scared me half to death
Yeah things happen in this world
                             like to scared me half to death
TV say a spaceship is comin here
                             if it do wont be no people left

But I tell you folks, spaceship cant be so bad
Reckon I just a fool people,
                             spaceship cant be too bad
I been on earth all my life,
                             and all my life I been mad

So when the spaceship land
                             I aint runnin too fast
I say, I reckon I might not run too fast
I might run over into Mississippi
                             and you know I can’t pass

Hold it people, I see a flying saucer comin
                             guess I wait and see
Yeah, a spaceship comin
                             guess I wait and see
All I know they might look just like me

Henry Dumas

Henry Dumas (1934–1968) was a poet and fiction writer from Sweet Home, Arkansas, and a leader in the Black Arts, Black Power, and Civil Rights Movements. He is also now known to have been a founder of Afro-Surrealism and Afrofuturism. In May of 1968, a New York Transit Authority policeman shot and killed Dumas in a case of so-called “mistaken identity.” He was thirty-three years old. Over the course of his abbreviated life, Dumas served in the U.S. Air Force and held faculty roles at Hiram College and Southern Illinois University; he was also husband to Loretta Dumas and father to their two sons, David and Michael. Although Dumas published and received awards early in his career, the bulk of his writings were collected posthumously, thanks to the tireless vision of his colleague Eugene Redmond.
He has been celebrated by such writers as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Gwendolyn Brooks.