Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People

Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People

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Insightful and fun, this collection of poetry captures the essence of the African American experience for young people.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613249928
Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date: 11/28/1993
Pages: 76
Product dimensions: 6.08(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.51(d)
Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

About the Author

Nikki Giovanni is the author of Acolytes: Poems and The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968–1998. George Ford is the illustrator of several books in the What-a-Baby series.

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Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People

By Nikki Giovanni, George Ford

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 1993 Nikki Giovanni
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-619-6


a poem

  (for langston hughes)

    diamonds are mined ... oil is discovered
    gold is found ... but thoughts are uncovered

    wool is sheared ... silk is spun
    weaving is hard ... but words are fun

    highways span ... bridges connect
    country roads ramble... but i suspect

      if i took a rainbow ride
      i could be there by your side

    metaphor has its point of view
    allusions and illusion ... too

    meter... verse ... classical ... free
    poems are what you do to me

    let's look at it one more time
    since i've put this rap in rhyme

      when i take my rainbow ride
      you'll be right there at my side

    hey bop hey bop hey re re bop


(there may be a reason why)

    I was born in the congo
    I walked to the fertile crescent and built
      the sphinx
    I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
      that only glows every one hundred years falls
      into the center giving divine perfect light
    I am bad

    I sat on the throne
      drinking nectar with allah
    I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
      to cool my thirst
    My oldest daughter is nefertiti
      the tears from my birth pains
      created the nile
    I am a beautiful woman

    I gazed on the forest and burned
      out the sahara desert
      with a packet of goat's meat
      and a change of clothes
    I crossed it in two hours
    I am a gazelle so swift
      so swift you can't catch me

    For a birthday present when he was three
    I gave my son hannibal an elephant
    He gave me rome for mother's day
    My strength flows ever on

    My son noah built new/ark and
    I stood proudly at the helm
      as we sailed on a soft summer day

    I turned myself into myself and was
      men intone my loving name

      All praises All praises
    I am the one who would save

    I sowed diamonds in my back yard
    My bowels deliver uranium
      the filings from my fingernails are
      semi-precious jewels
      On a trip north
    I caught a cold and blew
    My nose giving oil to the arab world
    I am so hip even my errors are correct
    I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
      the earth as I went
      The hair from my head thinned and gold was
      laid across three continents

    I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
    I cannot be comprehended
      except by my permission

    I mean ... I ... can fly
      like a bird in the sky...

poem for two jameses

(ballantine and snow in iron cells)

    we all start
    as a speck
    nobody notices us
    but some may hope
    we're there
    some count days and wait

    we grow
    in a cell that spreads
    like a summer cold
    to other people
    they notice and laugh
    some are happy
    some wish to stop
    our movement

    we kick and move
    are stubborn and demanding
    completely inside
    the system

    they put us in a cell
    to make us behave
    never realizing it's from cells
    we have escaped
    and we will be born
    from their iron cells
    new people with a new cry

poem for lloyd

    it's a drag
    sitting around waiting
    for death
    gotta do something before
    i die

    it's so lonely dying
    all alone
    gotta do something
    before i die
    gotta gotta get a gun
    walking talking thinking gun
    before i die

    they're so lonely
    funeral dirges
    hip black angry funeral
    gotta gotta get a gun
    it's so lonely
    when you die
    gotta gotta get a gun to kill

for the masai warriors

(of don miller)

    remembering my father's drum
    remembering the leopard's screech
    if i could weave an ancient rope
    and tie myself to history
    i'd spring like daylight out of night
    into the future of our land
    i'd sprint across the grassy plain
    and make a nation for the gods
    where i could be the man

word poem

(perhaps worth considering)

    as things be/come
    let's destroy
    then we can destroy
    what we be/come
    let's build
    what we become
    when we dream

the funeral of martin luther king, jr.

    His headstone said
    But death is a slave's freedom
    We seek the freedom of free men
    And the construction of a world
    Where Martin Luther King could have lived
    and preached non-violence

no reservations

(for art jones)

    there are no reservations
    for the revolution

    no polite little clerk
    to send notice
    to your room
    saying you are WANTED
    on the battlefield

    there are no banners
    to wave you forward
    no blaring trumpets
    not even a blues note
    moaning wailing lone blue note
    to the yoruba drums saying
    strike now shoot
    strike now fire
    strike now run

    there will be no grand
    and a lot thrown round
    your neck
    people won't look up and say
    "why he used to live next to me
    isn't it nice
    it's his turn now"

    there will be no recruitment
    where you can give
    the most convenient hours
    "monday wednesday i play ball
    friday night i play cards
    any other time i'm free"

    there will be no reserve
    of energy
    no slacking off till next time
    "let's see — i can come back
    next week
    better not wear myself out
    this time"

    there will be reservations
    if we fail

revolutionary music

    you'vejust got to dig sly
    and the family stone
    forget the words
    you gonna be dancing to the music
    james brown can go to
    viet nam
    or sing about whatever he
    has to
    since he already told
    the honkie
    "although you happy you better try
    to get along
    money won't change you
    but time is taking you on"
    not to mention
    doing a whole
    song they can't even snap
    their fingers to
    "good god! ugh!"
    talking bout
    "i got the feeling baby i got the feeling"
    and "hey everybody let me tell you the news"
    martha and the vandellas dancing in the streets
    while shorty long is functioning at that function
    yeah we hip to that

    aretha said they better
    but she already said
    "ain't no way to love you"
    (and you know she wasn't talking to us)
    and dig the o'jays asking "must i always be a stand
    in for love"
    i mean they say "i'm a fool for being myself"
    While the mighty mighty impressions have told the
    for once and for all
    "We're a Winner"
    even our names — le roi has said — are together
    intruders (i mean intruders?)
    not beatles and animals and white bad things like
    young rascals and shit
    we be digging all
    our revolutionary music consciously or un
    cause sam cooke said "a change is gonna come"

poem for my nephew

(brother c. b. soul)

    i wish i were
    a shadow
    oh wow! when they put
    the light on
    me i'd grow
    longer and taller and


    sometimes i feel like i just get in
    everybody's way
    when i was a little girl
    i used to go read
    or make fudge
    when i got bigger i
    or picked my nose
    that's what they called
    or when i got older
    but it was only
    that i was in the way

black power

(for all the beautiful black panthers east)

    But the whole thing is a miracle-See?

    We were just standing there
    talking — not touching or smoking
    When this cop told
    Move along buddy — take your whores
    outa here

    And this tremendous growl
    From out of nowhere
    Pounced on him

    Nobody to this very day
    Can explain
    How it happened

    And none of the zoos or circuses
    Within fifty miles
    Had reported
    A panther

the genie in the jar

(for nina simone)

    take a note and spin it around spin it around don't
    prick your finger
    take a note and spin it around
    on the Black loom on the Black loom
    careful baby
    don't prick your finger

    take the air and weave the sky
    around the Black loom around the Black loom
    make the sky sing a Black song sing a blue song
    sing my song make the sky sing a Black song
    from the Black loom from the Black loom
    careful baby
    don't prick your finger

    take the genie and put her in ajar
    put her in ajar
    wrap the sky around her
    take the genie and put her in ajar
    wrap the sky around her
    listen to her sing
    sing a Black song our Black song
    from the Black loom
    singing to me
    from the Black loom
    careful baby
    don't prick your finger

poem for flora

    when she was little
    and colored and ugly with short
    straightened hair
    and a very pretty smile
    she went to sunday school to hear
    'bout nebuchadnezzar the king
    of the jews

    and she would listen

    shadrach, meshach and abednego in the fire

    and she would learn

    how god was neither north
    nor south east or west
    with no color but all
    she remembered was that
    Sheba was Black and comely

    and she would think

    i want to be
    like that

beautiful black men

(with compliments and apologies to all not mentioned by name)

    i wanta say just gotta say something
    bout those beautiful beautiful beautiful outasight
    black men
    with they afros
    walking down the street
    is the same ol danger
    but a brand new pleasure

    sitting on stoops, in bars, going to offices
    running numbers, watching for their whores
    preaching in churches, driving their hogs
    walking their dogs, winking at me
    in their fire red, lime green, burnt orange
    royal blue tight tight pants that hug
    what i like to hug

    jerry butler, wilson pickett, the impressions
    temptations, mighty mighty sly
    don't have to do anything but walk
    on stage
    and i scream and stamp and shout
    see new breed men in breed alls
    dashiki suits with shirts that match
    the lining that complements the ties
    that smile at the sandals
    where dirty toes peek at me
    and i scream and stamp and shout
    for more beautiful beautiful beautiful
    black men with outasight afros

poem for black boys

(with special love to james)

    Where are your heroes, my little Black ones
    You are the Indian you so disdainfully shoot
    Not the big bad sheriff on his faggoty white horse

    You should play run-away-slave
    or Mau Mau
    These are more in line with your history

    Ask your mothers for a Rap Brown gun
    Santa just may comply if you wish hard enough
    Ask for CULLURD instead of Monopoly
    This is a game you can win

    As you sit there with your all understanding eyes
    You know the truth of what I'm saying
    Play Back-to-Black
    Grow a natural and practice vandalism
    These are useful games (some say a skill is even

    There is a new game I must tell you of
    It's called Catch The Leader Lying
    (and knowing your sense of the absurd
    you will enjoy this)

    Also a company called Revolution has just issued
    a special kit for little boys
    called Burn Baby
    I'm told it has full instructions on how to siphon gas
    and fill a bottle

    Then our old friend Hide and Seek becomes valid
    Because we have much to seek and ourselves to hide
    from a lecherous dog

    And this poem I give is worth much more
    than any nickel bag
    or ten cent toy
    And you will understand all too soon
    That you, my children of battle, are your heroes
    You must invent your own games and teach us old
    ones how to play


revolutionary dreams

    i used to dream militant
    dreams of taking
    over america to show
    these white folks how it should be
    i used to dream radical dreams
    of blowing everyone away with my perceptive
    of correct analysis
    i even used to think i'd be the one
    to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
    then i awoke and dug
    that if i dreamed natural
    dreams of being a natural
    woman doing what a woman
    does when she's natural
    i would have a revolution

the price of patience

(for hilbert on his retirement as english department head)

    There are things ... that should not be touched:
      Books when your hands are sticky with chocolate
      Cars when your clothes are covered with oil
      Men when your heart does not love them
    Frost is right: Good neighbors make good fences

    There is something about the human spirit ... that
    cannot be tamed and should not be trained
    There is something wild ... in our souls and our
    eyes ... that must be free ... to explore the horizon
    It is dangerous... to wake a sleeping tiger
    It is foolish ... to ravish a man's pride
    Why do we always mistake kindness... for

    Don't we know the price of patience

    Winter always yields to Spring and she concedes
    to Summer
    It is the natural order of things ... Compromise ...
    We construct change ... to bring change ...
    to change again
    This is only right ... Yet

    There are some things ... that should not be touched
    Unless we are able ... to adequately replace or
    repair them:

      Do Not Shoot the Cacti
      Collect Your Trash at Antarctica
      Do Not Touch a Man ... Unless You Love Him

reading the backs of books

(for frank tota on his retirement as superintendent of roanoke schools)

    I'm not a real mystery reader ... I can't handle real
    murders ... or stalking killers ... or reading about
    the pain ...and humiliation of victims ... I have
    no interest ... in why the killer killed ...or how
    the victim ... was complaisant ... Though it is a
    deep secret ... it is not a dirty one ... that I read
    the backs of all books ... first

    One need look ... no farther ... than my college
    major ... History ... to know I believe ... we
    divine the future ... from the past ... That residing
    in us all ... are the seeds of possibility ... Heroes
    are not born ... they are made of circumstances
    ... Ordinary people ... do ... indeed ... perform
    extraordinary deeds... It is only logical

    But I would be remiss ... to assume any helmsman
    ... can bring the ship to shore ... And though we
    look ... for ports in storms ... we prefer safe
    harbors ... and calming ... welcoming ... waters

    I cannot know this ending ... but I know this history
    ... Frank Tota is a prime helmsman ... who has
    steered our future ... to a better point ... He has
    sailed forth ... in troubled waters ... and seen
    the ship ... put in ... We have learned ... from
    his patience and impatience ... that we are a better
    crew ... than before ... We have learned ... from
    his words and example ... that we are more
    capable than we thought ...

    His presence will be missed ... but there is no
    greater accolade ... to ascribe to a teacher... than
    that he has taught

2nd rapp

    they ain't gonna never get
    he's a note turned himself
    into a million songs listen
    to aretha call
    his name

    he's a light
    turned himself into our homes
    look how well we see
    since he came

    he's a spirit turned
    pisces to aries
    alpha to omega

    he's a man
    turned himself into Black
    and we turn little hims
    loose on the world

a poem for carol

(may she always wear red ribbons)

    when i was very little
    though it's still true today
    there were no sidewalks in lincoln heights
    and the home we had on jackson street
    was right next to a bus stop and a sewer
    which didn't really ever become offensive
    but one day from the sewer a little kitten
    with one eye gone
    came crawling out
    though she never really came into our yard but just
    sort of hung by to watch the folk
    my sister who was always softhearted but able
    to act effectively started taking milk
    out to her while our father would only say
    don't bring him home and everyday
    after school i would rush home to see if she was still
    there and if gary had fed her but i could never
    bring myself to go near her
    she was so loving
    and so hurt and so singularly beautiful and i knew
    i had nothing to give that would
    replace her one gone eye

    and if i had named her which i didn't i'm sure
    i would have called her carol

knoxville, tennessee

    I always like summer
    you can eat fresh corn
    from daddy's garden
    and okra
    and greens
    and cabbage
    and lots of
    and buttermilk
    and homemade ice-cream
    at the church picnic
    and listen to
    gospel music
    at the church
    and go to the mountains with
    your grandmother
    and go barefooted
    and be warm
    all the time
    not only when you go to bed
    and sleep


    snowflakes waltz around my ears
    i twirl in rhythm to the dance
    of peppermint dreams
    and mistletoe

    kissing you

    snowflakes ballet in my heart
    warming me to crystal dreams
    of dancing to that midnight sun

    kissing you

    snowflakes laugh and go away
    taking dance and crystal dreams
    leaving me alone with you
    to falalalalalalalala

kidnap poem

    ever been kidnapped
    by a poet
    if i were a poet
    i'd kidnap you
    put you in my phrases and meter
    you to jones beach
    or maybe coney island
    or maybe just to my house
    lyric you in lilacs
    dash you in the rain
    blend into the beach
    to complement my see
    play the lyre for you
    ode you with my love song
    anything to win you
    wrap you in the red Black green
    show you off to mama
    yeah if i were a poet i'd kid
    nap you


    in my younger years
    before i learned
    black people aren't
    suppose to dream
    i wanted to be
    a raelet
    and say "dr o wn d in my youn tears"
    or "tal kin bout tal kin bout"
    or be marjorie hendricks and grind
    all up against the mic
    and scream
    "baaaaaby nightandday
    baaaaaby nightandday"
    then as i grew and matured
    i became more sensible
    and decided i would
    settle down
    and just become
    a sweet inspiration


Excerpted from Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People by Nikki Giovanni, George Ford. Copyright © 1993 Nikki Giovanni. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


also by nikki giovanni,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
part one,
a poem - (for langston hughes),
ego-tripping - (there may be a reason why),
poem for two jameses - (ballantine and snow in iron cells),
poem for lloyd,
for the masai warriors - (of don miller),
word poem - (perhaps worth considering),
the funeral of martin luther king, jr.,
no reservations - (for art jones),
revolutionary music,
poem for my nephew - (brother c. b. soul),
black power - (for all the beautiful black panthers east),
the genie in the jar - (for nina simone),
poem for flora,
beautiful black men - (with compliments and apologies to all not mentioned by name),
poem for black boys - (with special love to james),
part two,
revolutionary dreams,
the price of patience - (for hilbert on his retirement as english department head),
reading the backs of books - (for frank tota on his retirement as superintendent of roanoke schools),
2nd rapp,
a poem for carol - (may she always wear red ribbons),
knoxville, tennessee,
kidnap poem,
everytime it rains,
the flowering of change - (the inaugural of toni iadoralo),
racing against the sun,
foundation-wise: rock solid,

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Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
ErrolHarry More than 1 year ago
Excellent collection of poems for young and old
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this peotry book it is good for little children my sister is 9 and shes praticing reading and she was doing perfect with reading
MichaelMungin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
4Q, 3P"there are no reservationsfor the revolutionno polite little clerkto send noticeto your roomsaying you are WANTEDon the battlefield...there will be reservationsonlyif we fail"p12-13