Glory in the Bastard Song

barefoot wandering poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Richard Bruce Nugent would scribble words on paper and toss them in the wastepaper basket of "Nigeratti Manor", Langston Hughes would fish them out of the trash, and Alain Locke would publish them. the only openly-gay man in a closeted circle, Nugent's writings are as bold and honest as they are playful...and contemplative. "Smoke Lillies and Jade" is a bohemian story exploring desire. In "Bastard Song", written for a lover, Nugent takes on the color complex. an excellent book about Nugent is "Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance" which from the vivid if fading memory of hours of fascination in the library, encompasses much of his writing, a kickass bios, at least one interview (he lived well into his 80s) and some of the kickass art that graced the pages of Fire!! and other renaissance papers.

from Smoke Lillies and Jade: He wanted to do something…to write or draw...or something...but it was so comfortable just to lay there on the bed...his shoes off...and think...think of everything...short disconnected thoughts...to wonder...to remember...to think and smoke...why wasn’t he worried that he had no money...he had had five cents...but he had been hungry...he was hungry and still...all he wanted to do was...lay there comfortably smoking...think...wishing he were writing...or drawing...or something...something about the things he felt and thought...but what did he think...he remembered how his mother had awakened him one night...ages ago...six years ago...Alex...he had always wondered at the strangeness of it...she had seemed so...so...so just the same...Alex...I think your father is dead...and it hadn’t seemed so strange...yet...one’s mother didn’t say that...didn’t wake one at midnight every night to say...feel him...put your hand on his head...then whisper with a catch in her voice...

Bastard Song for H.F

Since I am neither truly one, nor really true the other,
Can you not see that I must be the third-the first two's brother?
For it is true I am not black and just as true not white,
But when the day gives sudden way, dusk stands 'tween it and night
And dusk is just as true a thing as either night or day
And if the dusk smells faint of musk, turn not its scent away-
Night perfumes dusk's pallor-day etiolates the night:
My love for you is love for you though neither black nor white.
Yes, it's love I offer you and hope that you will keep.
This love you see is true, from me;--but no--it is to weep,
For you-pale white-cannot trust love from whom you've loved too long
And yet deride with untaught pride-my love is far too strong
So what thing can I offer you? What gift is there to give?
Not even dreams, or so it seems-for you refuse to live.
So this I offer you is weak with right and wrong--
Half dark, half light, half black, half white--a truly Bastard Song.