Categories
Cleages Detroit

Dialogue in Poetry

Louis Cleage Responds Poetically to “Two Songs” by Gary Grimshaw

During the 1960s, my uncles owned and operated Cleage Printers. It was what was known as a “job printer,” meaning that it didn’t print books, but rather printed handbills for neighborhood markets and flyers, newsletters, magazines and pamphlets for various radical groups, including the black nationalist Group on Advanced Leadership (GOAL), the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Detroit Artists Workshop, a countercultural collaborative. 

The printing plant was a place where people came to find discussion of the issues of the day and there were plenty of issues to discuss. My uncle Henry loved to hold forth on a variety of topics and his arguments were always well thought out and convincing. Hugh didn’t talk a lot, but he would have something to put in, maybe just a quiet shake of his head over what Henry was saying.

Their brother Louis Cleage was a doctor and his office was about 10 feet in front of the printing plant. When he came back, he would join in with his sarcastic comments and distinctive laugh. And surprising to me, my uncle Louis wrote poetry.

On Oct. 6, 2019, my good friend historian Paul Lee, who likes to consider himself an “honorary Cleage,” sent me an email with a copy of a poem that my uncle Louis had written.

I was so surprised because with all of Louis’ talents, I never knew that he wrote poetry. I immediately began to search for the poems that he was responding to, which were written by Detroit graphic artist and radical political activist Gary Grimshaw. 

After Googling and looking for Work 4, where Grimshaw’s poems appeared, I found that the Flickr photostream of “jwc 3o2” (Canadian “cultural factotum” jw curry) had a copy of the cover (designed by Grimshaw) and wrote to ask him if he had the whole work and could send me a copy of the poems. He very kindly dug out his copy of Work 4, made a copy of the poems and sent them to me. You can see the cover and the poems by both Grimshaw and Louis below.

These poems by Gary Grimshaw were published in the Artists’ Workshop , Works 4. I found the poems with the help of JWC, who I found through his photostream on fliker.

Two Songs by Gary Grimshaw

You’ve made your responsibilities
To wash your car and mow your lawn
While I’ve made mine
To stay excited about being alive
And you don’t understand
Why I won’t stay home

Without seeing it happen
You’ve slipped into the norm
While I’ve kept my eyes open
For the pleasure of new things
And you don’t understand
Why I am different from the rest

In the name of reason
You’ve drained the joy from life
While I make mistakes
Because I won’t listen to advice
From a dying generation
And you wonder why
I stare at the floor when you speak
August 2

“Prove yourself!” yells the Queen of Morality
In her castle on the hill of broken dreams
“But there’s nothing to prove!” I yell back
From my midnight ancient cellar
As the King slips off to the prison factory.

The Queen’s daughters know the virtue of work
They dream of an effortless struggle
Against inactivity and doubt
Carried on in calm organization
Won by merciless repression.

The King once was young, like me
I often think of him this way
Before he volunteered to die
His funeral went unnoticed
In the steady hum of the factory
Where he surrendered to Chief Reason
And succeeding days drove out whim and fancy
Leaving him with What Is and nothing more
What Is, the terrible master.
August 12

Two poems by Gary Grimshaw
Louis Cleage in Cleage Printers about 1963

A Comment on “Two Songs by Gary Grimshaw

I heard your song, my son
so clear and yet so lonely in the night.
The enchantment of its melancholy beauty
Transported me through space and time
to moon-lit waters of a blue lagoon.

In the quiet of the night, a golden maiden
played a dulcimer. A nightingale
sang a song of youth and beauty
that stirred my senses with such violence
as to test the very sinews
that bound me to my reason.
I was once again the young King in the timeless land.
The golden maiden was my queen.

Though now, we are as strangers when we meet,
I understand that you are different from the rest.
In the quiet of the night, when the beauty
of your song stirs my heart,
My lonely soul cries out to you, my son,
—-for understanding.

Louis J. Cleage, M.D.
Detroit 3/27/67

This poem by Louis J. Cleage, M. D. appeared in the April 1967 issue of “The Sun”.

_______________________

Header photograph is of the Cleage Clinic (front brick building) with Cleage Printers (gray cement block building) in the back. I photoshopped it from a Google Maps view from July 2009.

I would like to thank Paul Lee for the additional information that he sent me, which I have incorporated into this post.

Click these links for more information:
Cleage Printers
Gary Grimshaw
Louis Cleage

Categories
Grahams poetry & literature

Poems by James E. McCall

The first poem was written on the death of Howard Graham, my grandparent’s youngest son.  He died in 1932 from complications of scarlet fever. You can read more about it here My Grandmother’s Loss.  James McCall and my grandmother Fannie were first cousins, their mothers were sisters.


Good-night, Little Pal

Little pal, do you know how we miss you,
Since you journeyed into the West?
Once again in dreams we kid you,
And press you close to our breast.

Your hair was bright as the sunshine,
Your voice like the music of birds,
Your eyes were blue as the heavens,
And your smile too precious for words.

Goodnight, little pal; sleep sweetly
Till the dawn of the morning light;
May the angels of God watch o’er you–
Good-night, little pal, good-night.

In memory of Howard A. Graham,
By his pal, J.E.M.(James Edward McCall)
3/5/32

_________________________

The second poem is transcribed from the page of poems in my grandmother’s scrapbook. She pasted one thing over another, sometimes obscuring the original items on the page. The clippings are browning and fragile.

Winter in St. Antoine by James McCall
(In The Detroit Saturday Night)

In St. Antoine the snow and sleet
Whiten and glaze the drab old street
And make the snow-clad houses gleam
Like crystal castles in a dream.
There, many swarthy people dwell;
To some, ’tis heaven, to others,   hell!
To me the  street seems like a movie stage
Where Negro play and stars engage.
They laugh and love and dance and sing
While waiting the return of spring.
Some drown their heart-aches deep
In winter time on St. Antoine.

There, on the gutters frozen brink
A dope-fiend lies, with eyes that blink
And from a neighboring cabaret
come sounds of song and music gay.
At windows, tapping, here and there,
Sit dusky  maidens  young and fair,
With painted cheeks  and brazen eyes.
and silk clad legs crossed to the thigh
Upon the icy pavements wide,
Gay brown-faced children laugh and slide
While tawny men in shiny cars
Drive up and down the street like   czars.

Into a  church across the way
There goes a bridal party gay.
While down the street like a prairie-fire,
Dash a  bandit car and a cruising flyer.
Around the corner whirls a truck,
An old coal-peddler’s horse is struck;
The horse falls on the frozen ground,
The dark blood spouting from its wound.
A motley crowd runs to the scene;
A woman old, from shoulders lean,
Unwraps a quilt her hands have pieced
And spreads it o’er the shivering beast.

Among the swarthy folk who pass
Among the slippery street of glass,
Are some in furs and  some in rags;
Lovely women, wretched hags,
White-haired  migrants from the South;
Some wrapped in blankets, pipes in mouth;
Some smile while others seem to shiver,
As though they   long for Swanee River;
But though they dream with tear wet eyes
Of cotton-fields and sunny skies.
They  much prefer the heaven and hell
On St Antoine, where free men dwell.

______________________________

Jo Mendi was a famous chimpanzee at the Detroit Zoo.

You can read more about McCall in this post – James Edward McCall, Poet and Publisher.

Categories
poetry & literature

“Good-bye Jim” by James Whitcomb Riley

I have been thinking about this poem often lately, don’t know why.  I have the book that used to belong to my uncle Henry and before him, to my grandparents.  I remember reading it growing up.  My husband is called  Jim and I sometimes say  “Good bye Jim, take care of yourself!” when he’s leaving.  I copied this from here, although I could have scanned it in.

“Good-bye Jim” 
by James Whitcomb Riley

Old man never had much to say-
‘Ceptin’ to Jim,-
And Jim was the wildest boy he had-
And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Never heerd him speak but once
Er twice in my life, and first time was
When the army broke out, and Jim he went,
The old man backin’ him, fer three months;

And all ‘at I heerd the old man say
Was, jes’ as we turned to start away,
“Well, good-bye Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
‘Peered-like, he was more satisfied
Jes’ lookin’ at Jim
And likin’ him all to hisse’f-like, see?
‘Cause he was jes’ wrapped up in him!
And over and over I mind the day
The old man come and stood round in the way
While we was drillin’, a-watchin’ Jim-
And down at the depot a-heerin’ him say,
“Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
Never was nothin’ about the farm
Disting’ished Jim;
Neighbors all ust to wonder why
The old man ‘peared wrapped up in him:
But when Cap. Biggler he writ back
‘At Jim was the bravest boy we had
In the whole dern rigiment, white er black,
And his fightin’ good as his farmin’ bad-
‘At he had led, with a bullet clean
Bored through his thigh, and carried the flag
Through the bloodiest battle you ever seen,-
The old man wound up a letter to him
“At Cap. Read to us, ‘at said: “Tell Jim
Good-bye,
And take keer of hisse’f.”
Jim come home jes’ long enough
To take the whim
“At he’d like to go back in the calvery-
And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Jim ‘lowed’ at he ‘d had sich luck afore,
Guessed he ‘d tackle her three years more.
And the old man give him a colt he ‘d raised,
And follered him over to Camp Ben Wade,
And laid around fer a week er so,
Watchin’ Jim on dress-parade-
Tel finally he rid away,
And last we heerd was the old man say,-
“Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
Tuk the papers, the old man did,
A-watchin’ fer Jim-
Fully believin he ‘d make his mark
Some way-jes’ wrapped up in him!-
And many a time the word ‘u’d’ come
‘At stirred him up like th e tap of a drum-
At Petersburg, fer instunce, where
Jim rid right into their cannons there,
And tuk ’em, and p’inted ’em t’ other way,
And socked it home to the boys in gray,
As they scooted fer timber, and on and on-
Jim a lieutenant and one arm gone,
And the old man’s words in his mind all day,-
“Well good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
Think of a private, now, perhaps,
We’ll say like Jim,
‘At ‘s clumb clean up to the shoulder-straps-
And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Think of him- with the war plum’ through,
And the glorious old Red-White-and-Blue
A-laughin’ the news down over Jim,
And the old man, bendin’ over him-
The surgeon turnin’ away with tears
‘At hadn’t leaked fer years and years,
As the hand of the dyin’ boy clung to
His father’s, the old voice in his ears,-
“Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
THE END