Saturday, 11 January 2014


By James Downs

(for Amiri Baraka:  10-07-34 to 1-09-14)

if I hold in      the truth
I will burst      a bubble
of thought    exploding
upon the    high upper
I spent the 60s   finding the right combination of   talk and listen   move and be still   and I will
always be known for speaking my mind   telling it like it is   “layin’ the truth on ya baby”   no one
can put one over on me   I’m strong and powerful   moss does not grow on  me   they thought my
play was a controversy because a black man and a white woman on a subway go to war on each
other   isn’t that how it is   you tell the truth and they slam you for it   don’t they see it  don’t they
see how it has been for 200 years.   oppression is invisible   the oppressed become invisible   Ralph
said it best   Invisible Man   when a society finds the suppression   of truth is the daily grinding
way of doing their business   how could they see what they have become   the jazz is what is
true   the jazz is what skitters you across all the potholes in the road   the jazz is Jazz   no other
sounds come so sweet to my ears   not even my baby’s healthy crying voice   it is the voice of
a people   crying out of Egypt   begging to be freed   the world is a world   there is a third world
that is ignored   there is a world where all may strive for freedom from the others     Kawaida
covers it all   liberation of the mind as well as body   my teaching   my poetry   are me   some
in my State knew the value of my words and I became a Laureate of Poetry   teaching    I can
certainly bring my years to that    they got mad and took the job away from me   I said  you
knew my thoughts and words before   then why did you pick me and reject me   I’ve gotten my
balance of   talk and listen   .move and be still   I will be here with my truth the rest of my days

if I hold in      the truth
I will burst      a bubble
of thought    exploding
upon the  high   upper

Amiri Baraka:  10-07-34 to 1-09-14


James Downs lives in Yosemite National Park, California.  A native Texan, James moved to the Golden State in 1993 and happily calls himself a "permanent Californian."  James produced a twice yearly onstage writers’ night, WORDS, which lasted eleven years.  James has a chapbook WHERE MANZANITA (2000) and a full-length volume MERGE WITH THE RIVER (2004), both published by Poetic Matrix Press (, and will have a chapbook in 2014 and his third full volume soon.  In 2010, James became the Associate Editor of Poetic Matrix Press.  In his spare time, he writes lyrics with a musician friend for SAWHORSE. Most importantly, James wants you to know that he married his love of ten years, Joy, in the summer of 2007 on his publisher’s land by a creek under a willow tree. Best decision of his life.  James retired and they now have their second home in Sonora, California, as well.