Amiri Baraka
Something in the Way of Things (In Town)
[Verse: Amiri Baraka]
In town
In town
In town
Something in the way of things
Something that will quit and won't start
Something you know but can't stand
Can't know get along with, like death
Riding on top of the car
Peering through the windshield for his cue
Something entirely fictitious and true
That creeps across your path hallowing your evil ways
Like they were yourself passing yourself not smiling
The dead guy you saw me talking to is your boss
I tried to put a spell on him but his spirit is illiterate
I know things you know and nothing you don't know
'Cept I saw something in the way of things
Something grinning at me and I wanted to know, was it funny?
Was it so funny it followed me down the street?
Greeting everybody like the good humor man
And they got the taste of good humor
But no ice cream
It was like that, me talking across people into the houses
And not seeing the beings crowding around me with ice picks
You could see them
But they looked like important Negroes on the way to your funeral
Looked like important jiggaboos on the way to your auction
And let them chant the numbers
And use an ivory pointer to count your teeth
Remember Steppen Fetchit?
Remember Steppen Fetchit, how we laughed?
And all your Sunday school images giving flesh and jiggling
With the ice pick high off his head
Made ya laugh, anyway
I can see something in the way of ourselves
I can see something in the way of ourselves
That's why I say the things I do
You know it, but it's something else to you
Like that job
This morning, when you got there and it was quiet
And the machines were yearning, soft, behind you
Yearning for their n***a to come and give up his life
Standin' there bein' dissed and broke and troubled
My mistake is I kept sayin' "that was proof God didn't exist"
And you told me, "nah..." Well, it's proof that the devil do
But still, it's like I see something I hear things
I saw words in the white boy's lying rag
Said he was gonna die poor and frustrated
That them dreams walk witch you 'cross town
S'gonna die from over work
There's garbage on the street that's tellin' you you ain't shit
And you almost believe it
Broke and mistaken all the time
You know some of the words, but they ain't the right ones
Your cable back on but ain't nothin' you can see
But I see something in the way of things
Something to make us stumble
Something to get us drunk from noise and addicted to sadness
I see something and feel something, stalking us like an ugly thing floating at our back, calling us names
You see it and hear it too
But you say, "It got a right to exist just like you
And if God made it..." But then we got to arguin'
And the light gon' come down around us
Even though we remember where the mic is
Remember the Negro squinting at us through the cage
You seen what I see too?
The smile that ain't a smile but teeth flying against our necks
You see something too, but can't call its name
"Ain't it too bad?" y'all said
"Ain't it too bad? Such a nice boy, always kind to his mother
Always said good morning to everybody on his way to work"
But that last time before he got locked up and hurt, real bad
I seen him walkin' toward his house and he wasn't smiling
And he didn't even say hello
But I knew he'd seen something
Something in the way of things
That it worked on him like it do in will
And he kept marching faster and faster away from us
And never even muttered a word
Then the next day he was gone
You wanna know what?
You wanna know what I'm talkin' about?
Sayin' "I seen something in the way of things"
And how the boy's face looked that day
Just before they took him away
The is in that face and remember now
Remember all them other faces
And all the many places you've seen 'em
Or the sister with his child
Wandering up the street
Remember what you seen in your own mirror
And didn't for a second recognize
The face, your own face
Straining to get out from behind the glass
Open your mouth like you was gon' say somethin'
Close your eyes and remember what you saw
And what it made you feel like
Now, don't you see something else?
Something cold and ugly
Not invisible but blended with the shadow
Criss-crossing the old man
Squatting by the drug store at the corner
With his head resting uneasily on his folded arms
And the boy that smiled and the girl he went with
And in my eyes too
A waving craziness splitting them
Into the jet stream of a black bird
With his ass on fire
Or the solemn not-ness of where we go
To know we gon' be happy
I seen something—I seen something!
And you seen it too! You seen it too
You just can't call its name
[Outro: Sample]
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"
"—name" "—name" "—name" "—name"