[Black History Month\Robert Hayden\Honoring Malcolm X]
“Allah pledged to wrest him from the hellward-thrusting hand of Calvin’s Christ-to free him and his kind from Yakub’s white-faced treachery…He rose renewed renamed, became much more than there was time for him to be.”
Robert Hayden (August 4, 1913 – February 25, 1980) was an educator, poet, and essayist who was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was the first African-American U.S. Poet Laureate.
In the following Hayden poem El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), Hayden pays homage to Malcolm X, who was killed inside Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.
In honor of Black History Month, the Black Star News will be featuring speeches, interviews, poetry, etc. all month from important figures who fought for Black liberation and who represent the Black experience with honor.
El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) by Robert Hayden
O masks and metamorphoses of Ahab, Native Son
The icy evil that struck his father down
and ravished his mother into madness
trapped him in violence of a punished self
struggling to break free.
As Home Boy, as Dee-troit Red,
he fled his name, became the quarry of
his own obsessed pursuit.
He conked his hair and Lindy-hopped,
zoot-suited jiver, swinging those chicks
in the hot rose and reefer glow.
His injured childhood bullied him.
He skirmished in the Upas trees
and cannibal flowers of the American Dream–
but could not hurt the enemy
powered against him there.
Sometimes the dark that gave his life
its cold satanic sheen would shift
a little, and he saw himself
floodlit and eloquent;
yet how could he, “Satan” in The Hole,
guess what the waking dream foretold?
Then false dawn of vision came;
he fell upon his face before
a racist Allah pledged to wrest him from
the hellward-thrusting hand of Calvin’s Christ-
to free him and his kindfrom Yakub’s white-faced treachery.
He rose redeemed from all but prideful anger,
though adulterate attars could not cleanse
him of the odors of the pit.
He X’d his name, became his people’s anger,
exhorted them to vengeance for their past;
rebuked, admonished them,
their scouger who
would shame them, drive them from
the lush ice gardens of their servitude.
Rejecting Ahab, he was Ahab’s tribe.
“Strike through the mask!”
Time, “The martyr’s time,” he said.
Time and the karate killer,
knifer, gunman. Time that brought
ironic trophies as his faith
twined sparking round the hole,
the fruit of neo-Islam.
“The martyr’s time.”
But first, the ebb time pilgrimage
toward revelation, hejira to
his final metamorphosis;
He fell upon his face before
Allah the raceless in whose blazing Oneness all
were one. He rose renewed renamed, became
much more than there was time for him to be.