Spirit Singed

for Gil Scott-Heron
(April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011

by Ewuare X. Osayande

why do we have to die

like this?


do we have to live

like this?
when this ain’t living
the earth’s wretched
stuck in the muck and the mire
still the last hired and first fired
from “Washington DC” to “Johannesburg”
birthed into “Get Out The Ghetto Blues”
but even when we move
the oppression remains
cuz “Home is Where the Hatred Is”

we in pain
we in pain
like the pain we saw in his face
sucked dry
our pied piper hit the pipe
but he never lied
never tried to hide the hurt
never tried to glamorize our sorrow
this bluesologist
poured it into his song
and tapped the keys on the boards of our hearts
trying to resuscitate himself
trying to warn us
when he said “New York Is Killing Me”
but we was too busy surviving to see
that we too are dying
being stewed in the crack pot of America’s rot gut
cuz no matter how hot it gets
its always “Winter in America”
life here be cold as snow and hard as ice
cuz most of us still not willing to pay the price
to change the season

could this be the reason why
him wrote “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
when we still mesmerized
by the lights and cameras of inaction
sit on our asses
waiting for the fire next time
to come in some phony nickel-and-dime rhyme
brought to you by Columbia Records, BMG or Sony
whose artists only bark when told to speak
who reek from the noxious fumes
from the butt-crack of the upper class
that gets passed off as the funk

and we can’t have any real talk
cuz when the truth hits too close to home
we been trained to
just change the channel

forgot that we supposed to be
channeling the “Spirits” of those that came before
who knew what we supposed to be fighting for
and this here be the reason why
some poets become prophets ready to die
cuz those with ears to hear
too hooked on chronic
to decipher the phonics that would set us free

so truth-tellers who were hip before hop
be left ass-out
moving targets for CIA-FBI operatives
COINTELPRO-type tactics

and this be as tragic as
those that now would turn his songs into music trivia
and play
“I can name that tune in five notes” type nonsense

while his words lie in state
on the corner of 125th and Malcolm X

where I stand and keep vigil
always on the ready
taking notes of the “Small Talk” that still is heard
as your truth still burns in the embers of my mind

I hear you Gil Scott-Heron
like the bird heron
ancient Egyptian phoenix
whose words are wings to raise our consciousness
spirit singed
black sage
born again in the fire of Malcolm’s everlasting rage

your spirit is our spirit is mine
a willing vessel to carry your “Message to the Messengers”
paying homage with each breath
cause I am always yearning
for something deeper than the ying yang
I keep hearing on the radio

so I study your verses like scripture
necessary meditation so my spirit stays vexed
and keep this candle-wick called my soul
to spark the Molotov cocktail
in the mind of
whoever got next.

Ewuare X. Osayande is a political activist and author of several books including his forthcoming collection of poems entitled Whose America?. He lives in Philly, PA where he is director of POWER (People Organized Working to Eradicate Racism).