Poetry Profile: Tony Medina

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Running the Voodoo Down for Amiri B
By Tony Medina

Shango’s red black raging mouth

h(O)wling Whys & Y’s & Wise
Through headlight Djeli eyes
Lighting the way to
how we See & Sound

Scream & Shout
Dat in

Coltrane’s blazing horn
Smacking & scorching wooden Negroes
All Ascot no Fitzgerald
Cursing capitalists & the ghastly ghostly (g)utter
Audacity of their soul-sucking life-crushing corporations
Passing for people

O you must’ve did something terrrrrrbly right

Enough to be considered a one-man Axis of Evil
On the strength of one poem—a throwback broadside circa 1967, NewArk Rebellion
But we all know whowho whowho who the real “Axholes of Evil” is, as you put it
Who whowhowho who the pothead calling the kettle a crackhead O


Sheeeet! I could hear the barbershop & the corner now
That you—like Brenda Conner Bey & Louis Reyes Rivera & Jayne Cortez & Tato Laviera & Wanda Coleman & John Watusi Branch & Alvin Aubert & Malcolm’s Griot, Jan Carew—now split—to be in that number with that Ancestral Spirit Rising role call Big Band that always got our back—Running the Voodoo Down

For us forever

You the Poet Laureate of the Out & Way Out now w/ I&I Bob, man & Larry’s hoodoo hollerin bebop ghost —Black Boogaloo Wailers wailing atop the Great Night Whale Hey, man. You split?

On your way out you smacked the shit out of Kanye w/ a Confederate flag—didin’t you?

I could hear the bloods on the block now on the corner in the barrios & bodegas—

“Mira, Amiri se fue!!!”

In barbershops & hair salons in bars on prison yards—Whoooooooooo


Damn near made McGreavy & O’Reilly shit they drawers

Creepy-ass crackers hiding in them Bushes with Rummy Wolfy Condi Colon & that Constipated corpse Cheney

Killed more Palestinians & Iraqis w/ Ariel raids than all the black poems

Ever spoke—or written!

What anti do dat qualify as, Motherflower?


[Dis da Intermission]

Pass me a copy of The New York Times
So I could wipe my ass


Critics are bullshit
Unless they are lemmings

Plopped on a stair
Master stair(ing)
Way (up) to Heaben

Let us not confuse controversy with clarity

The lies of incongruous whores with integrity

Baraka spoke in a language of Bopulicitous intent

James Brown black Langton Hughes blue
Mouth of Malcolm  Baldwin eyes
Big as suns & moons
Making sure we never in the dark—
With ghosts!

Imamu spoke in a language

Unshakable sylla-stanza-break-dance-able funk lore free
Yet always with that tenderness & slant he peeped in Miles
Full of a lyrical expanse that climbed its rhythm
Deep into the cathedral of your bones

Amiri spoke in a language
Robeson rich DuBois direct Left a Hughes impression
With him Ooom Boom ba Boom Tubman-Turner tongue
Our fighter pilot literary Ali each poem a butterfly stick & move sting
Some mowed down like bowling pins some machine gunned to a certain degree

One hand on the boulder of the struggle, the other
Clutching a javelin—dagger balanced on tongue—

Spoke in Griot-Speak like Sisyphus Speak(s)—

Your hair could go white
As mine you roll a boulder

Uphill as many times I have
In my life

Hair can go white
Curse enough ghosts as I have

Hair whiter than John Brown’s bones

The day before my birthday the phone rang off the hook.

Part of me shut out the words. The other half refused to take a knee.
Part of me needed to be numb to the feeling, what was
reeling, inside of me, a fish line taking off at the hook.

The day before my birthday the phone rang off the hook.
Part of me was shook. Two walls closed in on me, as I

gripped the phone and clenched my teeth, and felt a
shift in the room. I reached for the bourbon I kept
for a different occasion, and played all I had

of Trane and imagined you reversing course,
galloping out his horn, punching holes through

Death’s neon smoky air. Outside rain splintered
into kisses, winds bickered and brushed branches across

the window, blessing the house with confusion.
Inside more horses jumped up out of horns, a crush

of black angels swirled, while Kentucky bourbon
strummed me along. Somewhere I heard a bomb

dropping. Somewhere I heard a baby screaming.
Somewhere a world was careening, and poets were

dreaming, you’ll come home, you’ll come home.
Transition strained above my head and Trane

burned through me with a murderous rage, and from deep
within those flames, I succumbed to a certain sadness

and gravity of hurt that had been growing heavier as
day slumped into night and the night receded into the
small hours, until I felt a buzzing whisper in my ear,
and heard you sing:

When I die, the consciousness I carry I will to
black people. May they pick me apart and take the
useful parts, the sweet meat of my feelings. And leave
the bitter bullshit rotten white parts

Great Spirits do not die.

They are forces
Of nature—
Energy forever
Passing through our
Souls, agitating
Our bones to

When the Teacher Speaks the Student Listens

More than


Poem for Hugo Chavez
By Tony Medina

Because you know
That pain is not
Our motherland

That suffering
Is not our
Divine right

That heaven is
What we make
On earth

Like houses
And bread

Because you come
From the heart
Of the soil

And do not sprinkle us
With holy water
Pie-in-the-sky lies and
Ashes to ashes dust to dust

Because you know
That your big mouth
And your curly hair

Is African
And your brown skin
And dark eyes is Indian

Because you don’t point
To Europe for
Beauty or salvation

Because you know
As Che and Fidel and
Maurice Bishop and Roque Dalton

And Walter Rodney
And Neruda and Allende
And Patrice Lumumba

That life is what
We make with our

Because you know as Jesus
That it is not difficult to
Multiply bread and fish

That oil is not
The lifeblood
Of the earth

That it should not
Run through our veins
Like fear

Because you are David
In the shadow
Of Goliath

And know that
The price of freedom
Is love

© 2013 by Tony Medina


Reasons to Riot

Wars should be fought with haiku, bops, sonnets & tanka. Ban assault weapons. Ban ALL weapons! Turn bullets into commas, colons, semicolons, ellipses & exclamation points!!! Let PEACE be in all caps. Love, the agitator. Bring back The Dozens— F@*k ’em if they can’t take a joke. At least you’ll get something in return—more bang for your buck. Know as the bonobos, as Nikki G—the true revolution is touch.


Tony Medina has published 17 books for adults and young readers. The first Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University, he earned his MA and PhD from Binghamton, University. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, in 2013, Medina was awarded both the Langston Hughes Society Award and the first African Voices Literary Award. His work appears in over 100 publications and his latest book is Broke Baroque (2Leaf Press).

Contact: Tony Medina:
Phone: 202-256-9893


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