Measured Extravagance

2000-12-15 - 11:39 p.m.

During my lunch hour earlier today, I nibbled on a roasted portabello mushroom, fresh little grape tomatoes, leftover brown rice, and a pair of chapbooks by Gwendolyn Brooks, Aloneness and Beckonings, both published by Broadside Press in Detroit in the 1970s (and still in print as of the early 1990s).

Aloneness is essentially a quiet little picture book. Iím not sure I would have enjoyed the illustrations as much when I was a child Ė black-and-white ink sketches by Leroy Foster Ė but now Iím impressed by his ability to convey a wide range of moods with just line and shading. But even when I was a child, I would have appreciated Brooksís distinctions between loneliness and aloneness: "Once in a while aloneness is delicious. Almost like a small red apple that is cold. An apple that is small and sweet and round and cold and for just you."

Beckonings is a manifesto, but one need not be African-American to be moved by the lyrics or the emotions that drive them:

The red floor of my alley
is a special speech to me.

(from "The Boy Died In My Alley")

When I was a little girl
Christmas was exquisite.
I didnít touch it.
I didnít look at it too closely.
To do that to do that
might nullify the shine.

(from "Elegy In a Rainbow")

Beware
the easy griefs.
It is too easy to cry "ATTICA"
and shock the street,
and purse thy mouth,
and go home to thy "Gunsmoke." Boys,
black boys,
beware the easy griefs
that fool and fuel nothing.

I tell you
I love You
and I trust You.
Take my Faith.
Make of my Faith an engine.
Make of my Faith
a Black Star. I am Beckoning.

(from "Boys. Black.")

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