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Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People

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Insightful and fun, this collection of poetry captures the essence of the African American experience for young people.

ISBN-13: 9781556521898

Media Type: Paperback(REV)

Publisher: Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Publication Date: 11-01-1993

Pages: 76

Product Dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.20(d)

Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

Nikki Giovanni is the author of Acolytes: Poems and The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968–1998. George Ford is the illustrator of several books in the What-a-Baby series.

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Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People

By Nikki Giovanni, George Ford

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 1993 Nikki Giovanni
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-619-6


a poem

(for langston hughes)

diamonds are mined ... oil is discovered
gold is found ... but thoughts are uncovered

wool is sheared ... silk is spun
weaving is hard ... but words are fun

highways span ... bridges connect
country roads ramble... but i suspect

if i took a rainbow ride
i could be there by your side

metaphor has its point of view
allusions and illusion ... too

meter... verse ... classical ... free
poems are what you do to me

let's look at it one more time
since i've put this rap in rhyme

when i take my rainbow ride
you'll be right there at my side

hey bop hey bop hey re re bop


(there may be a reason why)

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat's meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can't catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on

My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day

I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name

All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was
laid across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended
except by my permission

I mean ... I ... can fly
like a bird in the sky...

poem for two jameses

(ballantine and snow in iron cells)

we all start
as a speck
nobody notices us
but some may hope
we're there
some count days and wait

we grow
in a cell that spreads
like a summer cold
to other people
they notice and laugh
some are happy
some wish to stop
our movement

we kick and move
are stubborn and demanding
completely inside
the system

they put us in a cell
to make us behave
never realizing it's from cells
we have escaped
and we will be born
from their iron cells
new people with a new cry

poem for lloyd

it's a drag
sitting around waiting
for death
gotta do something before
i die

it's so lonely dying
all alone
gotta do something
before i die
gotta gotta get a gun
walking talking thinking gun
before i die

they're so lonely
funeral dirges
hip black angry funeral
gotta gotta get a gun
it's so lonely
when you die
gotta gotta get a gun to kill

for the masai warriors

(of don miller)

remembering my father's drum
remembering the leopard's screech
if i could weave an ancient rope
and tie myself to history
i'd spring like daylight out of night
into the future of our land
i'd sprint across the grassy plain
and make a nation for the gods
where i could be the man

word poem

(perhaps worth considering)

as things be/come
let's destroy
then we can destroy
what we be/come
let's build
what we become
when we dream

the funeral of martin luther king, jr.

His headstone said
But death is a slave's freedom
We seek the freedom of free men
And the construction of a world
Where Martin Luther King could have lived
and preached non-violence

no reservations

(for art jones)

there are no reservations
for the revolution

no polite little clerk
to send notice
to your room
saying you are WANTED
on the battlefield

there are no banners
to wave you forward
no blaring trumpets
not even a blues note
moaning wailing lone blue note
to the yoruba drums saying
strike now shoot
strike now fire
strike now run

there will be no grand
and a lot thrown round
your neck
people won't look up and say
"why he used to live next to me
isn't it nice
it's his turn now"

there will be no recruitment
where you can give
the most convenient hours
"monday wednesday i play ball
friday night i play cards
any other time i'm free"

there will be no reserve
of energy
no slacking off till next time
"let's see — i can come back
next week
better not wear myself out
this time"

there will be reservations
if we fail

revolutionary music

you'vejust got to dig sly
and the family stone
forget the words
you gonna be dancing to the music
james brown can go to
viet nam
or sing about whatever he
has to
since he already told
the honkie
"although you happy you better try
to get along
money won't change you
but time is taking you on"
not to mention
doing a whole
song they can't even snap
their fingers to
"good god! ugh!"
talking bout
"i got the feeling baby i got the feeling"
and "hey everybody let me tell you the news"
martha and the vandellas dancing in the streets
while shorty long is functioning at that function
yeah we hip to that

aretha said they better
but she already said
"ain't no way to love you"
(and you know she wasn't talking to us)
and dig the o'jays asking "must i always be a stand
in for love"
i mean they say "i'm a fool for being myself"
While the mighty mighty impressions have told the
for once and for all
"We're a Winner"
even our names — le roi has said — are together
intruders (i mean intruders?)
not beatles and animals and white bad things like
young rascals and shit
we be digging all
our revolutionary music consciously or un
cause sam cooke said "a change is gonna come"

poem for my nephew

(brother c. b. soul)

i wish i were
a shadow
oh wow! when they put
the light on
me i'd grow
longer and taller and


sometimes i feel like i just get in
everybody's way
when i was a little girl
i used to go read
or make fudge
when i got bigger i
or picked my nose
that's what they called
or when i got older
but it was only
that i was in the way

black power

(for all the beautiful black panthers east)

But the whole thing is a miracle-See?

We were just standing there
talking — not touching or smoking
When this cop told
Move along buddy — take your whores
outa here

And this tremendous growl
From out of nowhere
Pounced on him

Nobody to this very day
Can explain
How it happened

And none of the zoos or circuses
Within fifty miles
Had reported
A panther

the genie in the jar

(for nina simone)

take a note and spin it around spin it around don't
prick your finger
take a note and spin it around
on the Black loom on the Black loom
careful baby
don't prick your finger

take the air and weave the sky
around the Black loom around the Black loom
make the sky sing a Black song sing a blue song
sing my song make the sky sing a Black song
from the Black loom from the Black loom
careful baby
don't prick your finger

take the genie and put her in ajar
put her in ajar
wrap the sky around her
take the genie and put her in ajar
wrap the sky around her
listen to her sing
sing a Black song our Black song
from the Black loom
singing to me
from the Black loom
careful baby
don't prick your finger

poem for flora

when she was little
and colored and ugly with short
straightened hair
and a very pretty smile
she went to sunday school to hear
'bout nebuchadnezzar the king
of the jews

and she would listen

shadrach, meshach and abednego in the fire

and she would learn

how god was neither north
nor south east or west
with no color but all
she remembered was that
Sheba was Black and comely

and she would think

i want to be
like that

beautiful black men

(with compliments and apologies to all not mentioned by name)

i wanta say just gotta say something
bout those beautiful beautiful beautiful outasight
black men
with they afros
walking down the street
is the same ol danger
but a brand new pleasure

sitting on stoops, in bars, going to offices
running numbers, watching for their whores
preaching in churches, driving their hogs
walking their dogs, winking at me
in their fire red, lime green, burnt orange
royal blue tight tight pants that hug
what i like to hug

jerry butler, wilson pickett, the impressions
temptations, mighty mighty sly
don't have to do anything but walk
on stage
and i scream and stamp and shout
see new breed men in breed alls
dashiki suits with shirts that match
the lining that complements the ties
that smile at the sandals
where dirty toes peek at me
and i scream and stamp and shout
for more beautiful beautiful beautiful
black men with outasight afros

poem for black boys

(with special love to james)

Where are your heroes, my little Black ones
You are the Indian you so disdainfully shoot
Not the big bad sheriff on his faggoty white horse

You should play run-away-slave
or Mau Mau
These are more in line with your history

Ask your mothers for a Rap Brown gun
Santa just may comply if you wish hard enough
Ask for CULLURD instead of Monopoly
This is a game you can win

As you sit there with your all understanding eyes
You know the truth of what I'm saying
Play Back-to-Black
Grow a natural and practice vandalism
These are useful games (some say a skill is even

There is a new game I must tell you of
It's called Catch The Leader Lying
(and knowing your sense of the absurd
you will enjoy this)

Also a company called Revolution has just issued
a special kit for little boys
called Burn Baby
I'm told it has full instructions on how to siphon gas
and fill a bottle

Then our old friend Hide and Seek becomes valid
Because we have much to seek and ourselves to hide
from a lecherous dog

And this poem I give is worth much more
than any nickel bag
or ten cent toy
And you will understand all too soon
That you, my children of battle, are your heroes
You must invent your own games and teach us old
ones how to play


revolutionary dreams

i used to dream militant
dreams of taking
over america to show
these white folks how it should be
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away with my perceptive
of correct analysis
i even used to think i'd be the one
to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug
that if i dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she's natural
i would have a revolution

the price of patience

(for hilbert on his retirement as english department head)

There are things ... that should not be touched:
Books when your hands are sticky with chocolate
Cars when your clothes are covered with oil
Men when your heart does not love them
Frost is right: Good neighbors make good fences

There is something about the human spirit ... that
cannot be tamed and should not be trained
There is something wild ... in our souls and our
eyes ... that must be free ... to explore the horizon
It is dangerous... to wake a sleeping tiger
It is foolish ... to ravish a man's pride
Why do we always mistake kindness... for

Don't we know the price of patience

Winter always yields to Spring and she concedes
to Summer
It is the natural order of things ... Compromise ...
We construct change ... to bring change ...
to change again
This is only right ... Yet

There are some things ... that should not be touched
Unless we are able ... to adequately replace or
repair them:

Do Not Shoot the Cacti
Collect Your Trash at Antarctica
Do Not Touch a Man ... Unless You Love Him

reading the backs of books

(for frank tota on his retirement as superintendent of roanoke schools)

I'm not a real mystery reader ... I can't handle real
murders ... or stalking killers ... or reading about
the pain ...and humiliation of victims ... I have
no interest ... in why the killer killed ...or how
the victim ... was complaisant ... Though it is a
deep secret ... it is not a dirty one ... that I read
the backs of all books ... first

One need look ... no farther ... than my college
major ... History ... to know I believe ... we
divine the future ... from the past ... That residing
in us all ... are the seeds of possibility ... Heroes
are not born ... they are made of circumstances
... Ordinary people ... do ... indeed ... perform
extraordinary deeds... It is only logical

But I would be remiss ... to assume any helmsman
... can bring the ship to shore ... And though we
look ... for ports in storms ... we prefer safe
harbors ... and calming ... welcoming ... waters

I cannot know this ending ... but I know this history
... Frank Tota is a prime helmsman ... who has
steered our future ... to a better point ... He has
sailed forth ... in troubled waters ... and seen
the ship ... put in ... We have learned ... from
his patience and impatience ... that we are a better
crew ... than before ... We have learned ... from
his words and example ... that we are more
capable than we thought ...

His presence will be missed ... but there is no
greater accolade ... to ascribe to a teacher... than
that he has taught

2nd rapp

they ain't gonna never get
he's a note turned himself
into a million songs listen
to aretha call
his name

he's a light
turned himself into our homes
look how well we see
since he came

he's a spirit turned
pisces to aries
alpha to omega

he's a man
turned himself into Black
and we turn little hims
loose on the world

a poem for carol

(may she always wear red ribbons)

when i was very little
though it's still true today
there were no sidewalks in lincoln heights
and the home we had on jackson street
was right next to a bus stop and a sewer
which didn't really ever become offensive
but one day from the sewer a little kitten
with one eye gone
came crawling out
though she never really came into our yard but just
sort of hung by to watch the folk
my sister who was always softhearted but able
to act effectively started taking milk
out to her while our father would only say
don't bring him home and everyday
after school i would rush home to see if she was still
there and if gary had fed her but i could never
bring myself to go near her
she was so loving
and so hurt and so singularly beautiful and i knew
i had nothing to give that would
replace her one gone eye

and if i had named her which i didn't i'm sure
i would have called her carol

knoxville, tennessee

I always like summer
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy's garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
at the church
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep


snowflakes waltz around my ears
i twirl in rhythm to the dance
of peppermint dreams
and mistletoe

kissing you

snowflakes ballet in my heart
warming me to crystal dreams
of dancing to that midnight sun