Of Dilettantes and Dreamers

by Bob McNeil

He was born at the Hudson River’s mouth
    With a fixed Earth Sign—

     A proud limb on an African tree—

     And The Thinker, his archetype,

      Dwelled beneath his prominent brow.

24 seasons later,

    His family tribe continued to harvest fruits of experience

    In the Mecca of the new Nubian,

     Colors’ Capital,

     The Jerusalem of the Lost Tribe—Harlem.

     And it was here this seedling-young boy,

      Like the streets’ Shakespeare, Langston Hughes,

      Found solace in his people’s cultural oasis.

At 54 seasons,

      He became a hormone-mass of omnivorous reading:

    African-eurythmic prose, verse,

     Odes, carmen, cantus,

     Yoruba, Malinke, Zulu, Bantu,

      South of the Sahara poetry.

      Over 3000 translated tongues sang in his tympanum,

      Poets that dared to burn brighter than the sky,

      Like David Diop, Dadié, Césaire and Senghor,

       A voyage on winged words thru the geography of his humanity.

He knew these books were keys

     Out of clockwork-constant existence.

     With those keys,

      He opened doors to distant lands

     Where coffee-bean-brown people

     Were making living history.


      His egg-fragile youth

       Unbroken by adulthood’s fire-hot stress,

       Beneath a dirt-old tree,

       Miles from the city’s cyanide swing,

       He nested comfortably,

       And learned the pages of the sages.

At 55 seasons,

    Wherever there was a pencil and paper,

     He was inspired indeed—

      Those were his keys 

      Out of clockwork-constant existence.

      With those keys,

       He opened doors to distant worlds

      Where he was dipping his pen into dawn’s well,

       Painting word-pictures,

       Turning idea-seeds into Eden-like gardens,

        Making atoms into universes of possibilities

        That could one day include him—

        An anonymous dreamer.

He retreated into the interior,

        The inner soul’s city

         Where ideas were fusing fog-opaque feelings 

          Into concrete form,

          And searched for words with symphonic sound

          And seer-like vision,

          An image that could make blind men perceive colors,

          A rhythm that could make the tone deaf toe tap on time,

          And phrases that could punctuate ethnic moments

           Throughout the Diaspora.

           And like a history-honored griot,

           This dream-sunken child

            Composed a praise song for his people

             And remote posterity.

Of Dilettantes and Dreamers by Bob McNeil

© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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