The connection in Eady’s art between music and drama, drawing on their close associations in African-American traditions, has never been more important than in this work, which comprises two distinct but related “song cycles.” Although each poem stands adequately on its own, when assembled they form an even more powerful and coherent poetic narrative, the protagonist of which is the “dusky angel” invented by Susan Smith in 1995 to explain the abduction and disappearance of her two young sons. (She later confessed to leaving them in the back seat of the car she drove into a lake.) The effect is chilling. With both wit and well-directed anger, the poet invokes other mythical characters of the white imagination: Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, Buckwheat, Steppin Fetchit, the “ghost of the scripts.” The second cycle of poems derives from Eady’s libretto for “Running Man,” presented at Here Theatre in New York in early 1999. It portrays, through family recollections, the life of a black man who ventures from the small Southern town of his birth to a Northern city. The language here is both more rhythmic and idiomatic, as when “a sinner smacked to the floor by the holy spirit” is compared to a flopping fish “scooped from a pond” (a cogent metaphor for the rural black exodus of the 1940s and 1950s).
Although this may hardly seem a fit subject for poetic exploration, Eady’s touch is masterly.