Home Masthead “Die I could, but not now, not this time…”

“Die I could, but not now, not this time…”


So here I lie in wait for the pall of gloom bearers of darkness to bear me down
Deeper than the depths of despair… As I look above me now, I see it like
A documentary, bioscopic film… Look there goes the Ghost of Christmas Past
Hey there Nick… Saint Whoever… No more toys for Uncle Sam’s Black Boys
No! Not for the Nigger in me and in us all…

We will remain in the dance hall when everyone’s gone home and safe
In their warm beds… We will waltz among the upturned tables once laid
For those fine white folks and some maybe not so… Putty songs would
Thrill them, I hear their screams of delight as they waltz in milky
Moonlight sweating against each other’s faces, swooning as I watch

Then I wake as if from a dream and find that I am hearing sounds
In my head… not at all what I saw a moment ago through the mist
Of my tears… Quite black and blue actually… Horsewhips tearing
Out great sheets of skin… Black skin… What have I done? What sin
Has blotted out the sun… And dried all the rain that should have

Fallen on our bodies as they burned for just a drop… Bird crying
Duke smiling but all an act… Inside he too crying the blues for Harry
Carney and Jimmy Hamilton… And Blanton… Yeah… Jesus, If it
Wasn’t for him I might not have been except a son to Mama
And a fat dull boy to everyone else except Papa… Here he comes too

What’s that he’s saying? I cannot hear… Too many sounds in my ear
Goddamn cymbals clash of wood on brass… My head’s reeling yet I
Want to cry the blues away… Not that way… But in this way… Listen!
A dirge… Slow deep and glowing notes in scales never written
By anyone of my color… In any age…including mine… Lord

I hear you now… But I cannot understand a word you say
Still those slashing…clashing… brass and woodwinds…
Taking my breath slowly away…

Wait… Not now… Put me down… Raise me up… I hear a new
Sound deep inside my head and I got to wake-up here and now

And make sure that all is said… Maybe another time… But for now
I am not worthy to enter Kingdom Come… Raise me back to NiggerHell!

© Raul da Gama excerpted from The Unfinished Score: The Complete Works of Charles Mingus

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.


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