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Crispus Attucks by Jay Wright

April 17, 1988

When we speak of those musket-draped and manque Englishmen; all those common people, dotting the potted stoves, hating the king, shifting uneasily under the sharp sails of the unwelcome boats, sometimes we forget you. Who asked you for that impulsive miracle? I form it now, with my own motives. The flag dipping in your hands, your crafted boots hammering up the unclaimed streets, all that was in that unformed moment. But it wasn't the feel of those things, nor the burden of the American character; it was somehow the sense of an unencumbered escape, the breaking of a Protestant host, the ambiguous, detached judgment of yourself. Now, we think of you, when, through the sibilant streets, another season drums your intense, communal daring.

From "Selected Poems of Jay Wright" (Princeton University Press: $26.50, cloth; $10.50, paper; 197 pp.), edited with an introduction by Robert B. Stepto, afterword by Harold Bloom. Jay Wright was born in Albuquerque in 1935 and draws on both black and Latin American sources for his poetry. He is the winner of a number of awards and fellowships, including the Guggenheim (1974) and the MacArthur (1986). In an interview, he once said: "A young man, hearing me read some of my poems, said that I seemed to be trying to weave together a lot of different things. My answer was that they are already woven, I'm just trying to uncover the weave." (Crispus Attucks, a black man, was the first American to die for his country, the first casualty in the American Revolution.) 1987 Jay Wright, by permission.

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