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How the War in the Streets Is Won: Poems on the Quest of Love and Faith

by Gerald Early


Without Speech

It is the one window on the block you notice;
A big bay window that fronts a room of cheap
Furniture, that frames dingy drapes, a
Television that is always on, and one can
Hear, beyond the glass, a melodrama, a comedy.

In the big bay window is a cracking picture,
Cracking from the sunlight, faded to white,
A picture from a photographer's studio, you know,
A study of a young man's face at graduation or
The night of the prom, a face framed by stiff,

Conked hair and wearing a look that you know he
Could not have possessed when, an instant before
The smash, a moment when the utter magic of freak
Occurrence and the blood of pathos stuffs the mouth,
He realized, in that instance of belonging, what, in the picture,

He seemed, in its whiteness, only to be dumbly guessing at.



This book is divided into four sections dealing, respectively, with street violence, prizefighting, jazz, and family. Together they form an American spiritual odyssey from a beginning of violence, despair, disillusion, and alienation to a closing about family, love, and hope. What distinguishes these poems is that, though told by a black American, they are neither about race nor racial self-consciousness but rather about the common joys and dilemmas we all share as Americans. Early's poetry, universal in its voice, portrays one man's journey to an understanding of his own life and the larger collection of lives that has made his own possible.


Early's cultural critiques, reminisces, and tributes to friends and family killed by bullets and drugs are all intensely introspective and strongly percussive. His lamentations are searingly beautiful, as full of escalating drama as sermons, and his humor is quick and sharp. . . . Early pays homage to his loved ones as well as such giants as Jack Johnson, Bud Powell, Billie Holiday, and John Coltrane.