Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ishmael Reed!

When I came across Ishmael Reed’s “The Author Reflects on His 35th Birthday” in his New and Collected Poems (1988), I saw that Reed’s second 35 were almost up. As of today Mr Reed gets to start on his third batch.

The Author Reflects on His 35th Birthday

35? I have been looking forward
To you for many years now
So much so that
I feel you and I are old
Friends and so on this day, 35
I propose a toast to
Me and You
35? From this day on
I swear before the bountiful
Osiris that
If I ever
If I EVER
Try to bring out the
Best in folks again I
Want somebody to take me
Outside and kick me up and
Down the sidewalk or
Sit me in a corner with a
Funnel on my head

Make me as hard as a rock
35, like the fellow in
The story about the
Big one that got away
Let me laugh my head off
With Moby Dick as we reminisce
About them suckers who went
Down with the Pequod
35? I ain’t been mean enough
Make me real real mean
Mean as old Marie rolling her eyes
Mean as the town Bessie sings about
“Where all the birds sing bass”

35? Make me Tennessee mean
Cobra mean
Cuckoo mean
Injun mean
Dracula mean
Beethovenian-brows mean
Miles Davis mean
Don’t-offer-assistance-when
Quicksand-is-tugging-some-poor
Dope-under-mean
Pawnbroker mean
Pharaoh mean
That’s it, 35
Make me Pharoah mean
Mean as can be
Mean as the dickens
Meaner than mean

When I walk down the street
I want them to whisper
There goes Mr. Mean
“He’s double mean
He even turned the skeletons
In his closet out into
The cold”

And 35?
Don’t let me trust anybody
Over Reed but
Just in case
Put a tail on that
Negro too

February 22, 1973


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Here’s to 35 times two!

2 comments:

David Lee said...

"He even turned the skeletons
In his closet out into
The cold"

Heh. That's a great line.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I wonder if Reed would be amenable to a Poetry & Pizza feature.