Friday, December 09, 2005

Brother to Brother

—Richard Bruce Nugent

I have seen the tense length of my mother’s lover—
White with strain near the body of her child;
Damp with passion beside ivory softness;
Hot with desire to be cooled with soft coolings—
Had felt hot breath breathe short on the soft lips of me.
Felt taut muscles flinch at the feel of cool softness;
Sensed damp, curly hair brush with tremors my forehead;
Felt dry lips that fumbled in pained passion searching;
Felt hard whiteness damp with thin-lipped desire
For the soft satiation of the smooth cooling ivory
Of the body of the Child of my mother and her lover

(First published as part of "Geisha Man" in
Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance, 2002
© 2002 Thomas H Wirth)


Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the movie, Brother to Brother, in which a young, black, gay poet supposedly meets the aging Richard Bruce Nugent—a poet and short story writer who was involved in the Harlem Renaissance in his own youth. The encounter is fictional, but the movie spurred me to Google Nugent, who was born to a well-to-do family in Washington, D.C. in 1906. Together with other Renaissance writers Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, and Zora Neale Hurston, he formed the short-lived black literary magazine, FIRE!!, which was highly controversial because it portrayed the black experience in more realistic fashion than the party line of the day. Plus, it (and Nugent) talked about black homosexuality, a highly politically-incorrect (and dangerous!) thing to do at that time. Nugent lived a flamboyant lifestyle, but he managed to stay alive until 1987.

The movie can be rented from Netflix; Google Nugent (who sometimes went by other names such as Richard Bruce to protect his family) for more info and poetry, in addition to short stories which seem tame now, but were highly inflammatory at the time.

—Richard Bruce Nugent

—and as he gazed, there seemed to grow
the sound-soft beauty of pale Echo;
Petaled breasts began to show
On the image pictured there below.

And the beauty of it pained him so:
The smile so double-sexed and slow,
Faint fair breasts and pale torso
Male into female seemed to flow—

(First published in Trend: A Quarterly of the Seven Arts,
January-February-March 1933)


—Richard Bruce Nugent

My love has hair
Like midnight,
But midnight fades to dawn.
My love has eyes
Like starlight,
But starlight fades in morn.
My love has a voice
Like dew fall,
But dew-fall dies at a breath.
My love has love
Like life's all,
But life's all fades in death.

("My Love" appeared in the October, 1926, issue of
Ida Purnell's influential little magazine,
That issue, devoted to the work of Negro poets, was
edited by Countee Cullen.)


Those of you who know Ila Berry, a Bay Area poet and member of groups such as California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. and Ina Coolbrith Circle, might want to know that she has been having health problems. Sandy Lee Stillwell writes:
I am sure you must all know that our own dear Ila Berry has had her share of medical problems this Autumn. She is unable to get out much and has trouble with her vision. I thought it would be lovely if you, her poet friends, and fine poets you are, would send her a poem for the holidays. I would suggest that you make it just a small bit sexy in the style of Ila. Her address is: Ila Berry, 107 Marchbanks Court, Walnut Creek, CA 94525, 925-945-8652. Please share this information with other poets who know Ila. Thanks, I know this will brighten Ila's holiday season.

Or, heck—send the lady a poem, even if you DON'T know her...


Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their poetry and announcements of Northern California poetry events to for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.)