We Free Singers Be

Etheridge Knight

“If we didn’t have music, dancers would / be soldiers too ,
holding guns in their arms, instead of each / other.”
—Father Boniface Hardin

We free singers be
sometimes swimming in the music,
like porpoises playing in the sea.
We free singers be
come agitators at times, be
come eagles circling the sun,
hurling stones at hunters, be
come scavengers cracking eggs
in the palm of our hands.
(Remember, oh, do you remember
the days of the raging fires
when I clenched my teeth
in my sleep and refused to speak
in the daylight hours?)
We free singers be, baby
tall walkers, high steppers,
hip shakers, we free singers be
still waters sometimes too.
(Remember, oh, do you remember
the days when children held our hands
and danced
around us in circles, and we laughed in the sun?)
(Remember, oh, do you remember
how we slept in the shade of the trees
and woke, trembling in the darkness?)
We free singers be
and sing of cities with straight streets
and mountains piercing the moon—
and rivers that never run dry.

(Remember, oh, do you remember
the snow
on broadway
and the soldiers marching
thru the icy streets
with blood on their coat sleeves?)
(Remember, oh, do you remember
how we left the warm movie house
turned up our collars
and rode the subway home?)
We free singers be, baby.
We free singers be.

The Essential Etheridge Knight

Last updated May 16, 2023