“They don’t expect you to be Indiana Jones or Superman. Imagine how that kind of pressure feels. So…as a Black man you may be beleaguered, but at least you’re not Atlas carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
– Ishmael Reed, Ebony Magazine
I’d Rather Be Atlas
I’d rather be Atlas
(Just give me the globe and I’ll show you
one hell of a balancing act)
Than to be burdened by the brutes.
The brutes who grew up
Pampered with pot soil
and wrapped with ribbon-
pink for the girls and blue for the boys.
(shit was our pot soil and our ribbons
1 part hatred
2 parts tradition
1/3 sugar and spice
Cut in anger and vice
Placed out by the windowsill
And so lovingly instructed to
“Grow. Damnit grow!”
With never too much hatred so their
little mouths were kept begging for more.
And so they grew up and into what
they were meant to.
(which pretty much stank for us)
But what they forget is,
Shit’s the best soil.
So now I’m all big and all strong and been waiting so long
that I do believe
(excuse me Atlas, if you would move aside for a moment)
I could carry the weight of the world on my shoulders
(God knows I’ve carried ‘bout everything else)
And could show you,
Will show you
Some non-maligning, black male muscle
Some earthquake grove and cosmic shuffle
Some wicked, vicious, trippin jive
Some rappin’ just for keeping time.
So on the night the stars really gleam
(Got too close to the ‘fro and the Super Sheen)
You’ll gaze up to a sky truly black
When I do my mean, so smooth and so keen
One Hell of a balancing act.
Featured image: Roman statue of Atlas (2nd century AD). At the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Image credit: Roberto De Martino.