Thursday, March 23, 2017

Field Notes...From The Sunken Place

By Teresa Leggard:

I know, I know. It’s been out for weeks now. But it’s staying with me, this movie. It’s a warning, this movie. It’s still telling my subconscious things I hope I can bring to bare when a cold sweat breaks on my skin, the hairs on my arm stand at attention and it’s time to break the hell out.

Since viewing the motion picture debut of writer/director Jordan Peele, my mind has been a split screen wherein Get Out stays put on one side and the other side is a changing gallery of black creative work. I find myself trying to put them in conversation with each other to see what new meaning—if any—emerges.

First, most fortunately, there was a production of Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman playing at one of the local theaters. I saw the play just a few days after watching Get Out, and the comparison was almost too easy. Dutchman is a one-act play about a black man (Clay) and a white woman (Lula) who share a train car on the NYC subway. It would be a gross oversimplification to say having a black male and white female lead were all the two productions had in common. For a full synopsis of the play:

Of course, if anyone would have work that complemented Peele’s piece, it would be Amiri Baraka. But Brother Amiri was a poet as well as a playwright, and more accomplished as the former in my opinion. So, I began to search for any of his poetry that might speak to the same themes and anxieties. I don’t remember what I put into the search bar, but I turned over some virtual stone and found this:
“Wise I”

WHYS (Nobody Knows
The Trouble I Seen)

If you ever find
yourself, some where
lost and surrounded
by enemies
who won't let you
speak in your own language
who destroy your statues
& instruments, who ban
your omm bomm ba boom
then you are in trouble
deep trouble
they ban your
own boom ba boom
you in deep deep


probably take you several hundred years
to get 

I’m still wrapping my mind around the ways in which the two works speak to each other, but I believe it’s far more than the title of Peele’s film sharing the final two words of Baraka’s poem. One seems to be an evocation of instinct, a call to trust your gut. The other an ironic warning come too late.


  1. That last part! Always trust your gut!

  2. I actually quoted this very piece in one of my Poems....