680 Readings | 3 Ratings

Art, Behaving Like a Black Jew (Amiri Baraka/Gerald Stern Mash-Up)

Poems are bullshit unless they are an enormous baby 
sleeping on the road 
of warriors. Our poems and poets, and all the loveliness 
here in the world, 
seeing him there with the hole in his back… 



Spokesman for the Jews, clutch his throat and pull him 
off the road! And the wind blowing through his hair
like fists beating niggers 
out of jocks–smear on girdle-mamma mulatto bitches 
that joy in death, that philosophical coursing blood! 

Hearts, brains–

I am sick of the country, 
the bloodstained teeth (or trees or lemons) piled, 
refusing to move. 

With the Toyotas and the Chevys passing over me
with tongues pulled out 
and sent to Ireland; knockoff assassin poems; 
poems that shoot, or loud bumpers (the stiff hairs 
sticking through 
the grilles); words of the hip world, live; flesh

Whose brains are red jelly, stuck?

And I am sick of the spirit of Lindbergh 
over everything. 

Of men leaving nickel hearts strangely after pissing. 

We want live understanding of carnage, 
that kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs on a step. 

Or black ladies dying to get back again into my animal 

Whores? We want poems that kill and praise the beauty 
and the balance of the owner.

Jews? Black poems to come at you, love what you are: 
souls splintering. 

Fire? We want poems at sixty miles an hour.

Guns? Poems that wrestle cops into alleys.
(And they are useful. “Would they shoot Whitey’s ass?”) 

Look at the liberal, and touch his face, 
and stare into his eyes. Put it on him, poem. Strip him 
naked to the world–

another bad poem cracking from his stiffness 
and his bulk between Elizabeth Taylor’s toes. Stinking
from his round belly and his curved fingers!

On the steps of the White House, there’s a Negro leader
negotiating coolly for his people. Pinned 

to the slimy highways–the heavy birds in hot flame–
another Negro leader.

One: I am not going to stand in a wet ditch 
and lose myself in the immortal life-stream.

Let there be no love poems written when my hands are 
still a little shaky. Clean out the world for virtue 
and love!

I am going to behave like a Jew until love can exist 
and breathe like wrestlers, 
or shudder silently and puke itself into eternity, or…

When I got there the dead opossum looked like–

(And his black whiskers! And his little dancing feet!)–


{stumbles across the room}

I am going to be unappeased at the opossum’s death, 
steel knuckles in a Jew-lady’s mouth, politicians, 
airplane poems, “accounting rates of return.” Or 
dagger poems in the slimy bellies of warriors and sons.

And my eyes 
are still weak and misty. It took me only a few seconds, 
just, black world.

Poem, scream poison gas on beasts in green berets! And 
let all black people 
speak this poem: That they are the lovers and the sons!

We want a black poem. And a concentration on the species.

Let the world be a black poem– 
a bar stool inside its eyeballs, melting cleanly!

Let black people understand poems for dope-selling wops, 
or slick half-whiters eating fire and death!

To beating them down!

Fuck poems!

(And take their weapons, leaving them dead!)

Additional mash-ups (based on line):

James Wright & Franz Wright:


Monica McClure:


Matthew Zapruder:


James Franco (Part 1 of 6; see Ink Node author page for others):


Additional Remixes (based on word):

Justin Bieber:


Miley Cyrus:


Death Cab for Cutie:


Rebecca Black:

Posted 01/05/14
Author's Note: "Art, Behaving Like a Jew" is a creative reading/writing exercise that seeks to engage the pedagogical function of the poetry praxis--i.e., its ability to aid us in processing the challenging, contradictory, and/or otherwise troublesome data we encounter and struggle to synthesize in the Internet Age. While I wrote this very much aware of myself as a Jewish-American poet seeking to (as anyone) investigate my own self-identity and identifications, and while the two poets whose work I've incorporated here have for years been critical to that process for me, I don't claim any special authority, right, or privilege to interpret or understand, or reinterpret or misunderstand, the two poems that comprise this mash-up: Amiri Baraka's "Black Art" and Gerald Stern's "Behaving Like a Jew." Instead, "Art, Behaving Like a Black Jew" is my attempt to render as tactile and open to engagement two poems that have stayed with me, and troubled me, ever since I first read them. While this mash-up is also, of course, a tentative artistic statement regarding the meta-ars poetica and the possible rhetorical through-lines of these two works--e.g., arguably, deployments of racial and/or religious exceptionalism and essentialism--writing a poem and publishing it online is not synonymous with a claim of knowledge or even belief. It is, instead, and especially where poetry's pedagogical functions are aggressively engaged, a process of outwardly and inwardly focused exploration. I hope the poem will be read, too, in that spirit. The order of lines in the original poems has been rearranged, and on occasion punctuation, enjambment, and typeface have been amended (and in very rare cases, homonyms used). Otherwise, the lines remain intact, though their meaning has of course been substantially altered. As in contemporary music, the verse mash-up is intended to both honor and creatively expand upon its source texts. This is defiantly not a work of "uncreative writing."
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