Rest in Power: Reginald Lockett

After Aracelis Girmay’s reading at Books Inc. last year, I was hanging off by the bookshelves checking out some titles when I see Reginald Lockett also checking out some books off the shelves. I recognized him from a Cave Canem reading a few weeks earlier. So as I am looking at him, he looks over at me, and a conversation starts happening. We talk poetry, his and mine. Reginald offers his phone number and address, says he’s going to be a little busy in the next month but to hit him up soon so we can talk more.

I would love to say I took him up on that offer but I didn’t and that is my bad. But that isn’t going to be my lasting memory of Reginald Lockett.

I will remember the man I saw walking through the Jack London Square Sunday Farmer’s Market. Walking proud and happy with his fresh greens, and local products. A man and a place, poet and city. Even when that city is grimy, the poet still makes it shine. I say, “Oakland, with all its danger, is so beautiful,” and I see Reginald Lockett.

Oaktown, CA

Absorbing a taste of magic,
trying to figure the flavor,
twelve minutes past midnight,
Thursday morning,
walking somewhere on San Pablo,
I stop in an obscure juke joint
for two, three beers.
The tinkling sound of a quarter
in the jukebox.
Blues twanging guitar.
Lucille putting it
down on the table where
you can see it, feel it,
and know it’s real.
Man rocking to her
electric,
sensuous rhythms.
Eyes shut tight.
White and gold teeth flashing
on his paint smeared
black face.
Lucille, B.B.’s lady,
talking about “Friends.”
Friends,
I remember them
in the right light
in Friday and Saturday
evening breezes,
harmonizing, signifying, and
guzzling Greystone, Thunderbird,
Ripple and Green Death.
I think about the way
the purple, yellow, read, pink,
and loud sky baby blue slacks, sweaters,
and coats
beamed in the street light’s glow.
The Stacey Adams and alligator shoes
that smiled.
Sweet Charlie,
fried, dyed,
and laid to the side
in a one button Continental suit,
High Boy shirt, wide paisley tie and burgundy
pimp shades, winning every game
at Moon’s Pool Hall.
Cadillac dreamers hanging in there
where we still die unnatural deaths
at the hands of imported cracker cops,
anal retentive educators,
mentally constipated politicians,
and conceptually incarcerated
drug dealers
in a town, in a town, in a town,
in a state, in a state, in a state,
in a nation, in a nation, in a nation,
so bad,
even the birds sing bass.

from The Party Crashers of Paradise

Dedications and memories of Reginald from those who knew him:
from Al Young’s website
from Elmaz Abinader’s blog
from Interchange
More poems by Reginald Lockett
Poets from all around will read from his work on KPFA Radio 94.1fm on May 30th from 12 PM – 1 PM Pacific Time.

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6 Comments

  1. I remember we published Reginald Lockett in the Berkeley Poetry Review in the late 80s. Glad to hear he’s flourishing!

  2. Thank you for the back channel e-mail, Oscar. And thank you for remembering him. I honed in on his generous gesture towards you, your understated RIP getting past me…

  3. Francisco: No worries. I am glad that you have great memories of his work and that Reginald poems live on.

    Mozart: Word.

    Digicon: Final poems have been forwarded to the judge. When we get word on the winner, we will pass it on to all entrants.

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