Carl Hancock Rux

Poet, dramatist, novelist, and musician Carl Hancock Rux recently released a volume of poems, Pagan Operetta, and a spoken word/music CD from Sony, entitled Rux Revue, which explores combinations of poetry, soul, rock, hip-hop, jazz, and folk blues. Rux is a product of Harlem, New York City’s foster care system, and Columbia University — while his work has ghetto roots and rhythms, it is informed by a careful reading of the modern and contemporary masters.

Rux has performed in Europe, West Africa, Indonesia, and Scandinavia, working with such artists as Vernon Reid, Toshi Reagon, and Nona Hendryx, as well as The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, The Urban Bush Women, and Movin’ Spirits Dance Theater. He was recently featured on National Public Radio and in The Village Voice, which named him one of “Eight Writers on the Verge of Impacting the Literary Landscape,” and selected by the New York Times Magazine as “One of Thirty Artists Under the Age of Thirty Most Likely to Influence Culture Over the Next Thirty Years.”

Poetry Center Reading:
Fall 1999 (with Suheir Hammad)

Asylum Of Gestures

Conflation of rapture and regret
born out in those sequestered regions
of the body, unterrained —
outlawed by our
mothers, subjected to extreme
lore of hope and monotheism —

turns when
you touch me — an apocalypse
of destroying temples, and murdering eunuchs
who keep the Sabbath,

The sins of strangers
that guard the covenant are robbed when you
transgress the rules of my stomach…

An unfettered desire
discovers my feet
naked at the threshing floor
(where you have been forbidden to sleep
for centuries)…

In elegant disobedience you lie there,
like the heads of Hydra —
laureate corpses
scalpeled against velvet,
strumming a mandolin
tongue soaked in wine
gourd of honey roped at your waist…

hair pinned with pigeon heads and peacock feathers
red amber and coral beads —
dress of
gold and yellow
tiny mirrors sewn into its bodice,

Rasputin’s mouth
slips palm oil into mine

In these, our last years toward a millennium
we make dust of leviathans, leave our mothers
aging alone in the apartments of our youth
burn the bodies of priests upon
alters who refuse to admit they know something
decadence and its legacy
toward complete holiness —

The discourse of liberation and pagan practices,
its contribution to the reshaping
of identity
becomes a private dialect between thigh and toenail
regarding what savages scratched into walls
years before the comet came crashing down
spilling molten ore, petrifying the reality of
kisses such as ours…

Photograph us if you like, lover
our detonate throe
and the lure of primitive interaction
between us…

From PAGAN OPERETTA (Fly By Night Press, 1999)

Elmina Blues (Pidgin Drum Song)

dey took away
dey took away the drum
dey took away
dey took away the drum so ah use my hands
so ah use myself
to sing ov da rivah
an da blood
to get across ah use myself
ah use myself….
ugene ugene*
ugene ugene
wit my chest ah sing
wit my chest ah sing
ov da flesh torn open
ov da wall an da gate
ov da hate
dat took away my land
dat took away da man
from da shore
took away da drum
took away da drum
ah use myself
dey took away
dey took away
da drum
so ah use my feet
so ah use my dance
to step into da heavens
an walk away
to bring down da God
ah know
He kiss me
wit His music
an set fire to mah heels
He bid me dance to
da rhythm
A new song
A new wail
Ah sail across da ocean
an resurrect da bones
dey rest alone at da bottom
ov da sea
an dis prayer is to
da God ah know
to da drum
ov myself
to da drum
ov myself

From PAGAN OPERETTA (Fly By Night Press, 1999)

Just Asking

to live to die to die to live to be to what? To know to then to now with
what? understanding.
we ask to seek to search to find to not to say you do to where to look
to read to hear to trust to pray to lose to ask to not be answered. and
if I should or not or if I must bleed to bend or if and then the gush
is not for sure and if or not if the bow is not promised anointing after
the curtain fall then should I not or must I then be clear, with who for
what and how? That should and could are not for sure and if or not if
means nothing anymore*to any of us*not now*not ever*well
then, the thought is this, if the thought of being well is just a thought
of being other than what you are but if the thought of being well is
just a thought of being what you are not then how to know it is a
thought that could bring a state of being if you have never been in that
state at all, having never been it? or if you think, well then, that being
well you once have been and for now are not then why the thought?
why not the state of being simply willed into the now, if not, then how
to know it is a thought that could bring a state of being, but if the
thought could very well will the state then the thought is this. could
the thought will the state and it is true that those who die all willed it
so because they did not think of being well then, or as far as that goes,
those who fail and those who fall, all willed it so by not being well
then or willing the state of being well, well then if they did, the
young, the old, the in-between, we would what to will or want
right away, that is life, and what not to will or want, that is death, and
if we did, so willed it so, then why the fear and why the fight and how
could we want what we do or will such so if the state of life and the
being of death are all inevitable, for one comes first and then the next,
the opposite is still a thought and not a fact, and still the state of being
well, must be a thought of being what we have never been, what none
of us really are, well then, how or why, could the thought ever be the
thing that wills the state, and is it true, at all, that those who live and
those who die all willed it so, or have I asked this before, and us who
say we want, we need, we must be well, is this what we really want or
do we know what to want, that is what we are not, some state of being
well then?

From PAGAN OPERETTA (Fly By Night Press, 1999)