Monthly Archives: August 2019

Yusuf

Yusuf (Joseph C. Parnell) was a young black sailor arrested in March 1969 on the charge of the attempted murder of a Chicago police officer. He was in Cook County jail for 20 months before his family could raise bail. There he became close to the imprisoned Black Panthers.
Once out on bail he was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Training Centre brig for being AWOL. He was quickly put in the brig as he refused to stand to attention. He explained he could only relate the discipline of the Black Panther Party.

Dignity

Dignity
is when
within the wretched coffins
of a
cook county jail
in 98 degree weather
a brother
can stand in the middle of the dayroom
wearing
black on black in black
Jockey
nylon underwear
and
still maintain
his
folded arm profile
and
still talk
extremely slick . . .

6/30/70

Yusuf


Picture of the Soledad Brothers

Beckton Alp

Becky Varley-Winter has a collection, Heroines, out on V Press. This poem was written in 2019.

Beckton Alp

June, and flowers slump in the garden,
their heads heavy, frowsy with heat.
We climb to the peak of Beckton Alp
past clouds of drowsy bees
where hundreds of dog roses
grow around the swastikas
etched into the burnt-out wood
of the old abandoned ski slope
over and over and over again.
There are so many – swastikas, roses, swastikas –
the hills of time whip up around my skirts.
Looking towards the motorway
and smoggy high-rises of the city
a couple leans against each other,
his dark head on her burnt shoulder
surrounded by wild roses
in swirls of starstruck hearts.
On the path, we find a magpie fledgling
sharp, alive, eyes glinting,
turquoise gleaming on its back
as it hops into the bushes
going come and get me foxes,
come and get me then, you motherfuckers.

Becky Varley–Winter

It Hurts To Be A Youth

This poem is from the 1980 Hut Writers anthology Corrugated Ironworks. The Hut Writers were working class writers from Southmead, a council estate in north west Bristol. They met weekly in an old Nissan hut.

“With Tongue In Cheek”

Nobody said I couldn’t have the things I see on telly
And nobody said I’d go inside for pinching this bloke’s chevvy

Nobody never told me I had brains inside my head
And nobody ever told me not to spend all day in bed

Nobody really gives a damn about me that’s the truth
And nobody even wants to know how it hurts to be a youth.

Kathleen Horseman

Mr Jesse James Will Some Day Die

This poem is from New Masses, Volume 13, number 12, 18 December, 1934.

Mr Jesse James Will Some Day Die

Where will we ever again find food to eat, clothes to wear,
a roof and a bed, now that the Wall Street plunger
has gone to his hushed , exclusive, paid-up tomb?
How can we get downtown today, with the traction
king stretched flat on his back in the sand at Miami Beach?
And now that the mayor has denounced the bankers,
now that the D.A. denies all charges of graft, now
that the clergy have spoken in defence of the home,
O, dauntless khaki soldier, O, steadfast pauper, O, experienced
vagrant, O picturesque mechanic, O, happy hired man,
O, still unopened skeleton, O, tall and handsome target,
O, neat, thrifty, strong, ambitious, brave prospective ghost,
is there anything left for the people to do, is there
anything at all that remains unsaid?
But who shot down the man in blue overalls? Who stopped the mill?
Who took the mattress, the table, the birdcage, and piled
them in the street? Who drove teargas in the picket’s face?
Who burned the crops? Who killed the herd? Who leveled the
walls of the packing box city? Who held the torch to the
Negro pyre? Who stuffed the windows and turned on the gas
for the family of three?
No more breadlines. No more blackjacks. No more Roosevelts.
No more Hearsts.
No more vag tanks, Winchells, True Stories, deputies,
no more scabs.
No more trueblue, patriotic, doublecross leagues. No more
Ku Klux Klan. No more heart-to-heart shakedowns. No
more D.A.R.
No more gentlemen of the old guard commissioned to
safeguard, as chief commanding blackguard in the
rearguard of the homeguard, the 1 inch, 3 inch, 6 inch,
10 inch, 12 inch.
No more 14, 16, 18 inch shells.

Kenneth Fearing