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Cal E. Rollins
Born in Tucson, Arizona in 1936, he became a Bahá´í there in 1955 while attending the University of Arizona. He taught English and Creative Writing in Arkansas after attending graduate school at Tennessee State University in Nashville, then taught for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Phoenix and Ft. Wingate and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was Training Instructor in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and had a two year grant as Poet in the Schools and Poet in Residence for the New Mexico Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts. He retired as Senior Civil Rights Analyst from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Denver in 1986, living since then in Hawaii, then Long Beach, Ca. and currently in San Francisco.
Twelve Strawberries on a Terra-cotta Plate:
...but the Son of man hath not where...
They rest on a cherry table, polished, old,
its body bowed like a corseted lady.
Lemon wall and curtains, softer yellow,
move together in the open window. Yellow
cat eyes stare in the shadow
where the berries are cool.
In another life, I pluck their stems,
feed them one by one. Hold the cup too,
know it better, drink deeper than all others.
I pull down the sky as a coverlet for the Son
of man, scattering, foxes and birds; soothe that
sweet brow; play on my lyre the music
that brings peace at this time of day
the air is cooling.
from No Roosters in This Blue City, 1999,
Kalimat Press, U.S.A.
I have no quarrel
with any other aliens.
Flying this earth
in a saucer smaller
around the full moon and back,
thriving on light
and taking prisoners
from childhood. In praise
of the heavens without end
or beginning, I stand for you
as naked as a jaybird.
from the collection of poems, MALE RAIN,
which can be ordered for $14 from:
Kalimat Press, U.S.A.
Americanization of Beauregard
Cousin Beauregard tried settling
in Senegal, then France, but came back
cured of wandering and with a concept of home.
"He could parlez-vous with the best of 'em, "
Uncle Beauchamp said to me, holding
his fishing pole with both hands.
"But he couldn't fool nobody."
"Why didn't he like France? Especially Paris?"
"He liked 'em alright, but they didn't like him."
"Uncle Beauchamp, many blacks live there!"
"I suspect there's a difference 'tween livin'
He wasn't no Frenchman.
The Statue of Liberty was black, but French.
Not Beau. He too steeped in the American side
of history and politics.
And wastin' hot water.
He wasn't no African neither. Don't even
look like one."
Just then the catfish caught.
Letter: November 2003
I was talking with my friend, Humberto, again about Celia Cruz, the
Cuban Queen of Salsa, and how she so wanted to return to Cuba, her
homeland, but, of course, couldn't live and work there under the Castro
Immediately I was reminded that Cuba was the holding station for African
slaves entering the Americas and that Celia was probably the progeny of
some of them just as was I. She never could go home again. Can any
American black person whose ancestors were slaves ever go home again?
Here is one of my poems touching on that quandry.
for Robert Hayden
You are glued against the blue sky.
I am behind you where we sit on the hill,
and the tiny insects play in the sunlight.
This vision is clear:
two Uruba boys, one browner than the other,
peer over the ledge into a shoal; white,
blue, red, yellow fish are jewels in the water,
captives waiting for tide's rescue.
"That one, the white is Obatala; by his side
is Yemaya, Blue Queen of all the waters."
The dark one laughs, "And Chango, of fire
and war. He's there. Beloved Ochun, too,
yellow Goddess of love and river crossings."
Those two do not know they are in the dead
place in Cuba's belly. Are not yet pushed
into the vortex of pain that will last.
They do not hear their blood gush and lap
in us like the waves; and cannot
feel the pull, the thrashing in our veins.
As you talk in the sun of mauve and green
afternoons, write in my mind huge poems
of mornings in San Miguel, smoke
from the chimneys in Cuernavaca,
I build an altar, a santeria
of grass, twigs, and soft words.
Cal E. Rollins
In the article "On Robert Hayden"
Arts Dialogue, No. 59, Nov. 2002, page 13
- Poem: for Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, 2004
- Poems: Obatala Santeria, Skin Deep / Upon the Assassinations of Kennedy and King, November 2002
- Article: On Robert Hayden, Arts Dialogue, November 2002
- Letter and Poem: I hear this hill, Arts Dialogue, June 2002
- Poem: Close Encounter, Arts Dialogue, June 2001
- Poem: Clone, Arts Dialogue, October 2000
- Letter, Arts Dialogue, June 2000
- Poem: The Americanization of Beauregard, Arts Dialogue, June 2000
- Poem: Twelve Strawberries on a Terra-cotta Plate..., Arts Dialogue,
Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands