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Friday, June 17, 2011

POET'S BASEMENT - COUNTERPUNCH, Weekend Edition June 17 - 19, 201

Gil Scot-Heron (April 1, 1949-May 27, 2011)

The poet is dead
Now he lives forever
He delivered the word

Did we hear it?
Did we hear the word of Spartacus?
Did we hear the word of the Zanj?
Did we hear the word of Queen Nanny of the Maroons?
Did we hear the word of Toussaint L'Overture?
Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and Old John Brown?
Did we hear the word of Fred Hampton-
"You can murder a revolutionary,
But you can't murder revolution."

Gil Scot-Heron, the poet, is dead
But he is not silent.
Death cannot silence him.
Words flung back into the crack of the whip, the rattle of the chain, the slam of the prison door,
cannot be buried with their speaker, they resound across the universe:
"You can shackle my body but never my mind"

And once they have been uttered,
They belong to everyone

The poet is dead
But never alone, always in good company
With Hughes and Neruda, Dubois and Garcia-Lorca, Baldwin and Brecht,
Shakespeare and Malcolm, Milton and Robeson, Lady Day and John Coltrane

-No Jump Jim Crows, no Minstrel Shows, no coon songs, Toms or showbiz niggerism to ghettoize the ghetto's eyes, to trap the light you shed upon the world
-No "colored only" comparisons to pop tart rhymsters and great white fathers to keep you from sharing a seat with Rosa Parks or Aimé Césaire
No and no again.

The poet is dead
we are living
given a task, a duty to perform
Divide: the mortal lie from the immortal truth
Divine: the future from rhythms, blue hues and sunrise
Decide: never fear forever here

Gil Scot won't let you down
If you stand up!

Mat Callahan can be reached at


we were buried in snow,
one weekend

a poem a week
a word an hour

when you’re 23
& hungry
& the rest of the world is a motel
with weekly rates
& cheap excitement

& the Tragically Hip sang “words cannot touch beauty”

& Kathy Change wrote “break out of the ranks of evil, do a dance for freedom”

& burned to death
in West Philadelphia

burned the way the Ozone Disco Club
burned in Quezon seven months before

the way MOVE burned on Osage Avenue
eleven years before

the way Watts burned
& Detroit burned
& Miami burned
ten thousand years before

& Liz Phair sang “I’m like a wild flame that catches on whatever’s near”

& Kathy Change wrote “call me a flaming radical burning for attention”

& burned to death
in West Philadelphia

was written on a wall on 40th Street
two years before

were written on the wall at Frank Clement’s,
an even dirtier bar than
Dirty Frank’s on 13th Street,
where I would one day
order meatballs on New Year’s Eve

in the old, weird Philadelphia
a Philadelphia of ill repute

we heard Bob Mould at the Troc
Warren Zevon at the TLA on Valentine’s Day
before it became the Fillmore
poetry at the Quarry
where someone once referred to Los Angeles as “Omaha with a beach”
& in the Penn Review
where someone once wrote a poem called “Sometimes Death Wears a Party Hat”

I wrote a poem called “A Bomb Is A Metaphor That Won’t”
& one called “Satan” with the word “detritus”

the monkey house at the Philadelphia Zoo burned down on Christmas Eve
the year before
& I wrote a poem called “Do You Want To Burn the Monkey House Down”

& someone told me an ex broke up with me because
“he’s too hyper and he talks too much about Kafka”

& the Trappist monks of Tibhirine were executed
& the Tamil Tigers won Mullaitivu

& Bob Mould sang “now the myth disintegrates, nothing else is permanent”

& Kathy Change wrote “I’m terrified of entering those eerie shadows”

& burned to death
in West Philadelphia

& became a poem
& became a name
& became a number

one more John Africa
one more Holly Maddux
one more Moez Alimohamed

one more number
one more name

one more moth
one more flame

I would walk past
& never know

I went home with you
one weekend
before the snow fell
before winter came
& buried us

poetically, when you’re 23
& the rest of the world is a moment
we can never outrun

& Warren Defever sang “this world is not my home, I’m just passing through”

& Kathy Change wrote “I have crashed this party, I don’t belong here”

I went home with you
one weekend
& never went back

H. Wechsler is a writer/editor/researcher/proofreader/L.A. exile from Oaklyn, New Jersey. His work has appeared in RIBOT, Voyage Out, The Poet’s Attic, Poets’ Basement, The Pennsylvania Review, The Philadelphia Daily News, and HiNgE as well as THE HUMAN MUSEUM (with Al Ferber, Xlibris 2002). He can be reached at The Transformation Party honors the memory of Kathy Change at

We Will See
translated from the Urdu by RAFIQ KATHWARI

That promised day
Written into tablets of pre eternity

It’s inevitable
We, too, will see

Colossal mountains of tyranny
Floating like wisps of cotton

The earth shaking and rattling
Beneath our stomping feet

Swords of lightning clashing
Over the heads of despots

Idols flung out
From sacred monuments

Crowns tossed into the air
Thrones demolished

And we the pure and the rejected
Seated on cushions.

Only the name of God will remain
Who is both absent and present

The witness, the witnessed
A cry will rend the sky

“I am Truth”
Which is you as well as I

And the beloved of God will reign
You I We Us

Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911–1984) “was a renowned Pakistani intellectual, poet, and one of the most famous poets of the Urdu language. He was a member of the Anjuman Tarraqi Pasand Mussanafin-e-Hind (All India Progressive Writers' Movement) and an avowed Marxist. In 1962, he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union” (Wikipedia). His official website is

Rafiq Kathwari, a rebel poet and social entrepreneur, divides his time between his adopted home New York and his native Kashmir, where he empowers artisans. Poke him on Facebook or email

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)
To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work). Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where. Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx). Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit and check the links on the top right. Thanks!

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