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Slim's Stride.

Slim's Stride

for Sterling Brown

The Death Angel put down his paper,
looked at his wife as she sewed,
glanced at his baby angels' capers,
and commenced to put on his robe.
He went over and got his silver wings,
pasted them onto his celestial flesh,
looked around and got all Death's things,
forgetting his silver gloves in the mesh.

His wife said, "Baby, you forgot the touch.
How will you shake souls to fly to the light?"
She knew how some hate ascension so much,
how they wrestle, mistake her man to be slight.
Ole Death Angel stood with shoulders like worlds,
all aglow in the window with coal black skin
shinin like The Blues. His service pin unfurled,
he said, "Baby, I'm goin to fetch heaven a hero."

He left the house with granite bone steps
that were thunder in the high cotton of U.S.A.
He winked at the Good Lord sittin on Its steps,
and waved back at heaven's sable display.
No one knows what can happen when he leaves.
There's been death angels before this here Shine.
Some gets talked into envy and spite and leaves,
some meets love, but it's steady for Angel Shine.

He flew like the notes from his mama's chest,
and he flew like the steady stream of strong men.
He flew like the chant of saints and the rest,
and he flew like Joe Meek past chain gang and pen.
Soon he was hovering over a spotted bald head
that had figured death many times before,
as folk well know how misfortune's head
drowns just a chokin when grace eases ashore.

Shine lifted this old soul with his gloves,
let it dance a second while its temple slumped,
and the eyes that had seen so many doves--
the ginger but dimming eyes. Shine thumped
his stardust fingers on Sterling, all old and new,
surprising his own strength in hallelujahs
woven by the Good Lord and the precious few
who know the Spirit's secret work, the peculiar.

They leaped into heaven in roars and steps,
winked at St. Peter and eased into the air above air.
Daisy stood at the Good Lord's side,
all bright and free, full of a schoolgirl's pep.
She rubbed the face of a spirit that so long
listened to angels' whispers in low down play.
Man & Wife kissed a first kiss, saw the throng
they had celebrated when they fired hope's clay,

vessels bright and comely like Sportin Beaseley,
sharp and sparklin like Ma Rainey in her pearls,
sighin and whisperin like Big Boy ramblin the keys.
The Good Lord reckonin the dark all awhirl,
just a laughin with ITS calmin eye a little askew,
leading the parade of life, slidin like a fox in lace,
taking Sterling's face like a morning huggin dew,
showin him the mirror, and in the mirror the place

where folk laughed at laughin bein outlawed,
went to High Hell and stole the fire and sin,
got jobs just to quit, lay back and applaud--
gamblers, high rollers-the sweet and triflin.
Sterling took Daisy and stood sober and thin,
did a little lindy hop in the dust over sunrise,
sunset, grabbed a guitar, took out his gin,
sang "Dis is where our holy rise."

Afaa Michael Weaver's ninth collection of poetry is Multitudes (Sarabande Books, 2001). For the spring of 2002, he taught in Taipei, Taiwan, at National Taiwan University as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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Author:Weaver, Afaa Michael
Publication:African American Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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