Thursday, July 17, 2014

Feeling Fucked Up - Etheridge Knight

Lord she's gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs -

Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

Nothing else matters when your love leaves you.  Fuck everything else, says Etheridge Knight.  We can follow his descent into angry, sad, sobbing emotion through the course of the poem, as he gradually abandons all pretense of thought or poetic device, ending in anguish.  As the poem goes on, all punctuation is abandoned, letters are almost never capitalized (compare the "I" of the second line with the "i" of the seconds to last line), and thoughts run together like an angry rant.  It's an extremely effective device, communicating profound anger and sadness, mixed together in equal measure.

He wants to be mad at his woman, his lover, but he just can't bring himself to be mad at her.  His anger is displaced in every possible direction.  Art, music, nature, politics, religion, "the whole muthafucking thing."  The only thing Knight never says he's mad at is her.  He needs her to make his soul sing.  He feels so incomplete without her, and he knows that it's him who drove her away with his "dope death dead dying and jiving."  His drug abuse and destructive lifestyle made her leave him, taking with her her laughter, smiles, softness, and seductive "midnight sighs."  Unable to deal with being the cause of his own downfall, Knight redirects his anger.

By the end of his angry rant, we see Knight, practically whimpering, "all i want now is my woman back so my soul can sing."  He's pathetic, pitiful, and pitiable.  Our heart breaks for him, his rant over.  While it doesn't ameliorate his actions (and he never claims it does) his rant makes us sympathetic to him and his broken mind and heart.

I know many people are offended especially by vulgarity or obscenity in poetry but I think it's a valid means of self expression.  Knight isn't throwing "fuck" around for shock value, but because that's how lots of people talk when they're angry beyond reason.  No other language adequately describes the primal unreasonable emotion Knight feels.


  1. Hello Christopher

    This is an outstanding piece of poetry !!!! well thought !!!

  2. The only way of showing honest feeling through v/words