Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Sekou Sundiata

Starting this month until October, there will be several events celebrating poet, playwright, educator and activist Sekou Sundiata, all part of Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited, a New York City-wide retrospective. There have been a few events this month already, including one with Tracie Morris, and during next two weeks will be events at The Apollo Theater and The Poets House. All the events will include a wide variety of artists and creatives, including Amiri Baraka, Nona Hendryx , Vernon Reid, and Greg Tate. Below are a few of his memorable poems (I love the musicality and cultural awareness of his poetry), and you can read more on his website:

Philosophy of the Kool

a blues for poets

I been swimming since water,

learning to sing like the songs.

The oldest one I know goes like this:

Some people came from the trees,

I remember coming out of the undertow: the ocean

of seas: the electricity the explosions

billlions of us crashing with the waves,

then blown away into memory.

You can still hear us in the piece of a beat

or in that music made from scratch.

The first words still had roots,

like a James Brown syllable.

It was a single cell one minute, a slam dunk the next.

Speed was our need.


I remember salt and air, water slime and mud,

upright and thumb, fire and iron.

And most of all, the poetry we had then.

It was open verse, later called Africa.

I remember human life beginning female.

Gamete that I was when I knew it, zygote

that I was when I recalled it.

The earth was yet negative space, a canvas

stretched from hymen to foreskin to drumskin.

And sleep told us in those days,

to stay awake: the blackness begins

the blackness ends.

Whoever said there was light at the end

never lived at the end, never had to run

up ahead to see what it’s going to be: womb

to tomb to womb.


Whoso knowso, I mean I seen

Buddha and Krishna on the D train.

And you wouldn’t know the river gods, the prophets

or the turn of the century

if you couldn’t read the latest fashion

like proverbs on tee shirts:

the best things in life are toll free

I don’t like questions I don’t like answers, I just like to dance

I don’t have to drive, I’m already driven

What you got is what you love

Good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who don’t

Some people look down and find money, some people look down and lose their souls?

Shit happens and it floats


I recall the first ships

that appeared like shadows on the horizon.

And we ran out to greet them with our sweet palm wine and guaguanco

thinking their books and harmolodics could tell us something

about love and beauty.

But it was more than a notion

in the middle of that frigid Atlantic: the vomit

the sharks the babies with umbilical cords around their necks

the earthless rhythm of the water pitching to and fro.

I witnessed the birth of rock n roll.

My mama name Lucy, her real name Lucille.

Without the blues, we go under.

Shout out!

Here’s to the best words
In the right place
At the perfect time
To the human mind blown-up
And refined.

To long conversations and the Philosophical ramifications Of a beautiful day.

To the twelve-steppers
At the thirteenth step,
May they never forget
The first step.

To the increase, to the decrease
To the do, to the do
To the did to the did
To the do to the did
To the done done
To the lonely.
To the brokenhearted.
To the new, blue haiku.

Here’s to all or nothing at all.

Here’s to the sick, and the shut-in.

Here’s to the was you been to the is you in,
To what’s deep and deep to what’s down and down
To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

To the crazy
The lazy
The bored
The ignored
The beginners
The sinners
The losers
The winners.

To the smooth
And the cool
And even to the fools.

Here’s to your ex-best-friend.

To the rule-benders and the repeat offenders.

To the lovers and the troublers,
The engaging
The enraging
To the healers and the feelers
And the fixers and the tricksters,
To a star falling from a dream.

To a dream, when you know what it means.

To the bottom
To the root
To the base, uh, boom!
To the drum

Here’s to the was you been to the is you in
To what’s deep and deep to what’s down and down
To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

Here’s to somebody within the sound of your voice this morning.
Here’s to somebody who can’t be within the sound of your voice tonight.

To a low-cholesterol pig sandwich smothered in swine without the pork.

To a light buzz in your head
And a soundtrack in your mind
Going on and on and on and on and on like a good time.

Here’s to promises that break by themselves,
Here’s to the breaks with great promise.

To people who don’t wait in the car when you tell them to wait in the car.

Here’s to what you forgot and who you forgot.
Here’s to the unforgettable.

Here’s to the was you been to the is you in
To what’s deep and deep to what’s down and down
To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

Here’s to the hip-hoppers
The don’t stoppers
Heads nodding in the digital glow
Of their beloved studios.

To the incredible indelible impressions made by the gaze as you gaze in the faces of strangers.
To yourself you ask: Could this be God?
Straight up!
Or is it a mask?

Here’s to the tribe of the hyper-cyber
Trippin’ at the virtualmost outpost at the edge on the tip
Believin’ that what they hear is the mothership
Drawing near.

Here’s to the was you been, to the is you in
To what’s deep and deep, to what’s down and down
To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

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