Dudley Randall


Dudley Randall–Online Poems Essay, Research Paper

The Profile on the Pillow

After our fierce loving

in the brief time we found to be together,

you lay in the half light

exhausted, rich,

with your face turned sideways on the pillow

and I traced the exquisite

line of your profile, dark against the white,

delicate and lovely as a child’s.


you will cease to love me.

or we may be consumed in the holocaust,

but I keep, against the ice and the fire,

the memory of your profile on the pillow.

Reprinted courtesy of Lotus Press. Online


"Booker T. and W.E.B."

"It seems to me," said Booker T.,

"It shows a mighty lot of cheek

To study chemistry and Greek

When Mister Charlie needs a hand

To hoe the cotton on his land,

And when Miss Ann looks for a cook,

Why stick your nose inside a book?"

"I don’t agree," said W.E.B.,

"If I should have the drive to seek

Knowledge of chemistry or Greek,

I’ll do it. Charles and Miss can look

Another place for hand or cook.

Some men rejoice in skill of hand,

And some in cultivating land,

But there are others who maintain

The right to cultivate the brain."

"It seems to me," said Booker T.,

"That all you folks have missed the


Who shout about the right to vote,

And spend vain days and sleepless


In uproar over civil rights.

Just keep your mouths shut, do not


But work, and save, and buy a house."

"I don’t agree," said W.E.B.,

"For what can property avail

If dignity and justice fail.

Unless you help to make the laws,

They’ll steal your house with

trumped-up clause.

A rope’s as tight, a fire as hot,

No matter how much cash you’ve got.

Speak soft, and try your little plan,

But as for me, I’ll be a man."

"It seems to me," said Booker T. —

"I don’t agree,"

Said W.E.B.

Courtesy of Broadside Press. Online


A Poet Is Not a Jukebox

A poet is not a jukebox, so don’t tell me what to write.

I read a dear friend a poem about love, and she said,

“You’re in to that bag now, for whatever it’s worth,

But why don’t you write about the riot in Miami?”

I didn’t write about Miami because I didn’t know about Miami.

I’ve been so busy working for the Census, and listening to music all night,

and making new poems

That I’ve broken my habit of watching TV and reading newspapers.

So it wasn’t absence of Black Pride that caused me not to write about Miami,

But simple ignorance.

Telling a Black poet what he ought to write

Is like some Commissar of Culture in Russia telling a poet

He’d better write about the new steel furnaces in the Novobigorsk region,

Or the heroic feats of Soviet labor in digging the trans-Caucausus Canal,

Or the unprecedented achievement of workers in the sugar beet industry

who exceeded their quota by 400 percent (it was later discovered to

be a typist’s error).

Maybe the Russian poet is watching his mother die of cancer,

Or is bleeding from an unhappy love affair,

Or is bursting with happiness and wants to sing of wine, roses, and nightingales.

I’ll bet that in a hundred years the poems the Russian people will read, sing and


Will be the poems about his mother’s death, his unfaithful mistress, or his

wine, roses and nightingales,

Not the poems about steel furnaces, the trans-Caucasus Canal, or the sugar

beet industry.

A poet writes about what he feels, what agitates his heart and sets his pen in motion.

Not what some apparatchnik dictates, to promote his own career or theories.

Yeah, maybe I’ll write about Miami, as I wrote about Birmingham,

But it’ll be because I want to write about Miami, not because somebody

says I ought to.

Yeah, I write about love. What’s wrong with love?

If we had more loving, we’d have more Black babies to become Black brothers and

sisters and build the Black family.

When people love, they bathe with sweet-smelling soap, splash their bodies

with perfume or cologne,

Shave, and comb their hair, and put on gleaming silken garments,

Speak softly and kindly and study their beloved to anticipate and satisfy her

every desire.

After loving they’re relaxed and happy and friends with all the world.

What’s wrong with love, beauty, joy and peace?

If Josephine had given Napoleon more loving, he wouldn’t have sown the

meadows of Europe with skulls.

If Hitler had been happy in love, he wouldn’t have baked people in ovens.

So don’t tell me it’s trivial and a cop-out to write about love and not about


A poet is not a jukebok.

A poet is not a jukebox.

I repeat, A poet is not a jukebox for someone to shove a quarter in his ear

and get the tune they want to hear,

Or to pat on the head and call “a good little Revolutionary,”

Or to give a Kuumba Liberation Award.

A poet is not a jukebox.

A poet is not a jukebox.

A poet is not a jukebox.

So don’t tell me what to write.

1981. Online


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