Friday, September 13, 2013

Marvin X reviews Sonia Sanchez--Wounded in the House of a Friend

Sonia Sanchez is a poet to be heard and not read: in the hearing is the reading, for she is in the oral tradition, going back to the Nile River poets, the Congo River poets and the West African griots, those walking encyclopedias who carried in their heads the mythology and rituals of the entire tribe or nation, such is Sonia. She is the priestess, the shaman lady of the African American Nation. She qualifies because of real life suffering, dancing down into the pit of hell to arise with understanding to tell you all, if you can stand the low down dirty truth, not the Miller Lite bs for the tender hearts, but stories of pain and love and love and pain that lead to understanding and transcending.
Sometimes the poems are so strong even the poet fears going there, down into the deep dark purple funk of their lives, although we must, otherwise poetry has no meaning. Still, we will often avoid my proverb, "Poets must study their poems." Or maybe there comes a time when we have mastered certain poems, certain myths/rituals.
I know every time I try to get Sonia to read “Wounded In the House of A Friend,” she refuses, says she ain't in the mood or anything to avoid going there. One night at Baraka's house I thought she was going to read it with me, since it is a dramatic dialogue poem for a male and female. When I thought we were ready to read, she eased over to the piano and accompanied me like she was Ornette Coleman. Now her piano playing was absolutely beautiful, but she left me hanging, reading both male and female parts. Being a dramatist myself, I didn't mind, but I wanted so much for her to join me, just to hear her voice.
“Wounded In the House of a Friend” is a most beautiful dramatic poem about the ungrateful male, or shall we say simply, a poem about a male dog. Maybe that’s why I love it so much and she hates it.
She hadn't found anything. I had been careful. No lipstick. No matches from a well-known bar. No letters. Cards. Confessing an undying love. Nothing tangible for her to hold onto. But I knew she knew. It had been on her face, in her eyes for the last nine days. It was the way she looked at me sideways from across the restaurant table as she picked at her brown rice sushi . . .               
Sonia is describing not only the male dog, but the transcendent artist who brings the rock of Sisyphus down on herself . And perhaps the reason she refused to read with me was because the woman in the mirror is so painful, even after months/years of detachment.
Some poems are like that, too hot to handle even years later.
Yeah. There was another woman. In fact there were three women. In Florida, Californian, and North Carolina. Places to replace her cool detachment of these last years. No sex for months. Always tired or sick or off to some conference designed to save the world from racism or extinction. If I had jerked off one more time in bed while lying next to her it woulda dropped off. Still I wondered how she knew.
There is a song by Ledisi called "Take Time" that a friend had the singer autograph to me. Take time for yourself, something the artist finds impossible to do, lost in the world of imagination or saving the world from extinction, although the world ain't going nowhere, only we are soon and very soon.
. . . As I drove home from the party I asked him what was wrong? What was bothering him? Were we okay? Would we make love tonite? Would we ever make love again? Did my breath stink? Was I too short? Too tall? Did I talk too much? Should I wear lipstick? Should I cut my hair? Let it grow? What did he want for dinner tomorrow nite? Was I driving too fast? Too slow? What is wrong man? He said I was always exaggerating. Imagining things. Always looking for trouble.
Here the perfect woman speaks, who does everything to be perfect, firstly, for herself, but for her man too, to no avail, because the devil has slipped into the game. And so the drama of this poem begins, the drama of a life seemingly impossible because we make it so with our negrocities (Baraka term, and he should know). But it is a drama of truth, and as Baldwin said the greatness of a poet is determined by the amount of truth he/she is willing to reveal about her life and humanity. Sonia goes there, there where no hiding place awaits the truth seeker, or shall we say interrogator:
I'm not answering that.  
So our poetess/dramatist is describing classic high class Negro love—of course the low down ignut Negroes have a different dialogue, are not so diplomatic, civil. But thanks Sonia for showing us sick, high class black love.  And now we get to the insanity of it all:
What an image of mental terror, the stress and strain of not going stark raving mad, as Baldwin wondered why not. With these lines, Sonia moves from dramatist to poet. Those not working in both genres think there is a confusion of form.  But in the mind of the poet/dramatist there is an easy flow between forms, actually an integration and synthesis, in other words, no problem. How else can she address the  pain and terror, sitting upright and proper, oh no buddy, ain't that kinna party.   This is an any means necessary kind of drama, moving into pure poetry:
I am preparing for him to come home. I have exercised. Soaked in the tub. Scrubbed my body. Oiled myself down. What a beautiful day it's been. Warmer than usual. The cherry blossoms on the drive are blooming prematurely. The hibiscus are giving off a scent
Around the house. I have gotten drunk off the smell. So  delicate.  So sweet. So loving. I have been sleeping, no daydreaming all day. Lounging inside my head. I am walking up this hill. The day is green. All green. even the sky. I start to run down the hill and I take wing and begin to fly and the currents turn me upside  down and I become young again child like again ready to participate in all children's games.  
The above lines take us to the Biblical Song of Solomon, the vibe, the mood, the tension,  is almost identical, the imagery and metaphors. Awaiting her lover, drunk from the very idea of him, preparing herself for his embrace. She sees him coming and flies into his arms, woman like, but childlike with ecstasy, gazelle like. This is the best Sonia gets. I am not going to discuss the other poems in this collection, Wounded In the House of A Friend. This is the masterpiece. Perhaps this is why she is afraid to read it with me. It is great love and great pain. So read the book. She is a poet of love, the love of love, the pain of love, the joy of love, the hate of love, the wonder of love, the lost of love. And then she is the priestess who will shout, scream, wail, chant, sing, moan and cry with you.
Hear her, read her and get a healing.
23 December 2003

No comments:

Post a Comment