Flood Editions has recently reprinted Henry Dumas’s Knees of a Natural Man: The Selected Poems, compiled and edited by Eugene B. Redmond. Born in Arkansas in 1934, Henry Dumas moved to Harlem at the age of ten. A teacher and veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Dumas was active in the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement before being shot and killed by a New York City Transit policeman in the subway in 1968. Knees of a Natural Man was first published in 1989, and in his introduction to the book, Redmond writes that Dumas was “called to bear witness to the terrible swish and sass and swoon of life, to bear and bare the word. To shuttle the word between its far/near distances and its points of distillation along the Blackhuman Continuum. Wordwise he was sent to honor and re-illuminate those ancient things that remain in the ears.” The collection is currently available via SPD and the Flood Editions website.
Always I wait for the trees to fall
their outstretched prayers
prostrate across my path,
and then I am sure that I am sleep.
Last nite we made two shadows disrobe,
and we sat beside the fire
where the moon had watched over us
the nites before,
and we—you and I—fleshed each other.
I am sick of these weeping half-days
that come out of the past—
feathers lost in a wind berserk—
and clog the mind with ideas of morning.
Flesh remembers when it is.
Always the shadows disrobe us with eyes—
let the moon dream itself a sun—
and we dance as we dance now . . .
Always I recall this drowsiness falling
upon me as I take my place.
from Knees of a Natural Man: The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas. Copyright © 1989 by The Literary Estate of Henry Dumas. Reprinted with the permission of Flood Editions.