Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems

Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems

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by Sonia Sanchez

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An extraordinary retrospective covering over thirty years of work, Shake Loose My Skin is a stunning testament to the literary, sensual, and political powers of the award-winning Sonia Sanchez.


An extraordinary retrospective covering over thirty years of work, Shake Loose My Skin is a stunning testament to the literary, sensual, and political powers of the award-winning Sonia Sanchez.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This world is a better place because of Sonia Sanchez: more livable, more laughable, more manageable. I wish millions of people knew that some of the joy in their lives comes from the fact that Sonia Sanchez is writing poetry. —Maya Angelou

"An unending elegy on the grandest of scales." —Rafael Campo, The Washington Post Book World

"Only a poet with an innocent heart can exorcise so much pain with so much beauty." —Isabel Allende

"With an unblinking and critical poet's eye, Sonia Sanchez has been setting her readers straight, telling the 'terrible beauty,' and reflecting images in ways that simultaneously solicit tears and laughter. For over thirty years this revolutionary poet has been undeterred from a path that began in the sixties. She has not given up the struggle to let her poetry be what she refers to as a 'call to arms' for her people." —Juanita Johnson-Bailey, Ms.

"[Sanchez] looks deeply into that most dangerous of places-the heart." —-Quarterly Black Review

Library Journal
Known as one of the leaders of the Black Arts movement, Sanchez, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for Does Your House Have Lions? (LJ 4/1/97), has indeed been called a "lion in literature's forest" by Maya Angelou. In the tapestry of American literature, her work represents the underlying influence of African American history and emerges as a bold example of an experimental and revolutionary poetic form. By imitating the language of everyday speech, Sanchez solidifies the sound of the black American voice and places it more firmly in our literary canon. This retrospective of 30 years of work leaves one in awe of the stretches of language Sanchez has helped to legitimize throughout her career, language that carries the struggles of poverty, abandonment, racism, and drugs and offers a place of refuge and a path to hope. This book is highly recommended for YA and general collections.--Ann K. van Buren, New York Univ.

Product Details

Beacon Press
Publication date:
Bluestreak Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.42(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.48(d)

Read an Excerpt



i have been a
way so long
once after college
i returned tourist
style to watch all
the niggers killing
themselves with
that cd
not support
their stutters.
          now woman
i have returned
leaving behind me
all those hide and
seek faces peeling
with freudian dreams.
this is for real.
             my beauty.
i have learned it
ain't like they say
in the newspapers.

Poem at Thirty

it is midnight
no magical bewitching
hour for me
i know only that
i am here waiting
remembering that
once as a child
i walked two
miles in my sleep.
did i know
then where i
was going?
traveling, i'm
always traveling.
i want to tell
you about me
about nights on a
brown couch when
i wrapped my
bones in lint and
refused to move.
no one touches
me anymore.
father do not
send me out
among strangers.
you you black man
stretching scraping
the mold from your body.
here is my hand.
i am not afraid
of the night.


do not speak to me of martydom
of men who die to be remembered
on some parish day.
i don't believe in dying
though i too shall die
and violets like castanets
will echo me.

yet this man
this dreamer,
thick-lipped with words
will never speak again
and in each winter
when the cold air cracks
with frost, i'll breathe
his breath and mourn
my gun-filled nights.
he was the sun that tagged
the western sky and
melted tiger-scholars
while they searched for stripes.
he said, "fuck you white
man. we have been
curled too long. nothing
is sacred now. not your
white face nor any
land that separates
until some voices
squat with spasms."

do not speak to me of living.
life is obscene with crowds
of white on black.
death is my pulse.
what might have been
is not for him/or me
but what could have been
floods the womb until i drown.

Personal Letter No. 2

i speak skimpily to
you about apartments i
no longer dwell in
and children who
chant their dis
obedience in choruses.
if i were young
i wd stretch you
with my wild words
while our nights
run soft with hands.
but i am what i
am. woman. alone
amid all this noise.

A Poem far My Father

how sad it must be
to love so many women
to need so many black
perfumed bodies weeping
underneath you.
          when i remember all those nights
i filled my mind with
long wars between short
sighted trojans & greeks
while you slapped some
wide hips about in
your pvt dungeon,
when i remember your
deformity i want to
do something about your
makeshift manhood.
i guess
          that is why
on meeting your sixth
wife, i cross myself
with her confessionals.

Poem No. 3

i gather up
each sound
you left behind
and stretch them
on our bed.
             each nite
i breathe you
and become high.


in the night
in my half hour
negro dreams
i hear voices knocking at the door
i see walls dripping screams up
and down the halls
                   won't someone open
the door for me? won't some
one schedule my sleep
and don't ask no questions?
       like when he took me to his
home away from home place
and i died the long sought after
death he'd planned for me.
Yeah, bessie he put in the bacon
and it overflowed the pot.
and two days later
when i was talking
i started to grin.
as everyone knows
i am still grinning.


did ya ever cry
Black man, did ya ever cry
til you knocked all over?



today I am
tired of sabbaths.
I seek a river of sticks
scratching the spine.
O I have laughed the clown's air
now my breath dries in paint.


what is this profusion?
the sun does not burn
a cure, but hoards
while I stretch upward.
I hear, turning
in my shrug
a blaze of horns.
O I had forgotten parades
belabored with dreams.


in my father's time
I fished in ponds
without fishes.
arching my throat,
I gargled amid nerves
and sang of redeemers.
             (o where have you been sweet
                redeemer, sharp redeemer,
             o where have you been baroque
             i have been in coventry
             where ghosts danced in my veins
             i have heard you in all refrains.)


ah the lull of
a yellow voice
that does not whine
with roots.
I have touched breasts
and buildings answered.
I have breathed
moth-shaped men
without seeds.
(O indiscriminate sleeves)

             (once upon an afternoon
       i became still-life
       i carried a balloon
             and a long black knife.)


love comes with pink eyes
with movements that run
green then blue again.
my thighs burn in crystal.


if i had known, if
i had known you, i would have
left my love at home.

Poem No. 8

i've been a woman
    with my legs stretched by the wind
       rushing the day
          thinking i heard your voice
             while it was only the nite
                moving over
                   making room for the dawn.

What People are saying about this

Isabel Allende
Only a poet with an innocent heart can exorcise so much pain with so much beauty.
Chinua Achebe
The poetry of Sonia Sanchez is full of power.
Maya Angelou
Sonia Sanchez is a lion in literature's forest.

Meet the Author

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Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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