I Speak of the City: David Henderson


David Henderson Reading
Originally uploaded by theiaasdotorg

[Only De Mayor of Harlem could craft a poem that starts in the rain forest of the Congo and bring it back to the Lower East Side. This was the first poem I read when I found a used copy of The Low East at Moe’s Books. The praise that Henderson lavishes on the block is tremendous but only because the poet knows that even a song this powerful is not enough to get the City up on its feet and return love to the people. It takes some deep song to learn to love our alleys and fire escapes as much as we love our skyscrapers and bridges and Henderson delivers that kind of song.]

Song of Devotion to the Forest

                                 after the pygmies
                                  of the ituri forest

this land is my block and my people
we spring from you and we return
and it is to you i sing devotion
you are the source of my life
without you i could not exist
when things go wrong
(and sometimes like now it seems so many
things
go wrong) is is not because i believe in an evil
an evil that could match the power of you
it is simply because at this moment you are asleep
awake
you would never allow this to happen
sometimes i sing to awaken you
sometimes i sing because i am glad you are awake
sometimes i sing to make sure you stay awake
we people this part of your domain
we love to sing
especially when you sing with us

© David Henderson from The Low East

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

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