Ammunition Poetry and Other Raps

Ammunition Poetry and Other Raps


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



After losing four times in a row, /I decided that if you can’t beat

em, join em; so I decided to / slam and jam and perform

a fat, Afro-centric piece about / Cleopatra, ebony queen of the Nile,

while letting no one peek, that I / know for a fact that Ptolemy,

who began her line, was Greek!



Books by Sam Greenlee

The Spook Who Sat By the Door  / Ammunition! Poetry and Other Raps

Baghdad Blues: A Novel  / Blues for an African Princess

“Be-bop man/be-bop woman” 1968-1993: Poetry and other raps

*   *   *   *   *

Ammunition: Poetry and Other Raps

By Sam Greenlee



Ever notice how the blacker

some of them Black milletante

poets write, the whiter they sound?


I mean, if words could kill, some

of them Black milletante poets

would be badder than Jesse James!


I don’t write no ‘kill the honky’ poetry

because I haven’t yet figured out how

to write a .38 caliber poem!

 *   *   *   *   *

Slam Jam Blues


I used to think that poetry had

something to do with brevity,

occasionally laced with levity;

until I checked out the slams

and discovered that it had less

to do with brevity than verbosity;

less to do with levity than obesity.


After losing four times in a row,

I decided that if you can’t beat

em, join em; so I decided to

slam and jam and perform

a fat, Afro-centric piece about

Cleopatra, ebony queen of the Nile,

while letting no one peek, that I

know for a fact that Ptolemy,

who began her line, was Greek!


I have no intention of acting like

a drunken sailor and saying that

Cleopatra probably did look like

Elizabeth Taylor!


No, I wouldn’t mention miscegenation

nor indicate that her idea of the best

defense of the nation seemed to be

to engage in fornication with two

Roman bi-sexual ex-lovers.


Had a son by one and when the

other was overcome on the battlefield,

escaping because he was nimble, he

then took the blame and, in a moment

of shame, fell on his sword.

Now, ain’t that a phallic symbol!


When Cleo heard, without a word,

she took a coffee break, then committed

suicide by lying down with a snake.


No, I’d keep silent about all that and

sing praise about her dusky hues,

as dark as a starless night; even if

it ain’t historically right.


I’ll rave about how she was Ra’s

favorite daughter and exercised

daily by walking on water.


I’m gonna slam, I’m gonna jam

and if I distort history, ain’t no



I’m gonna lie and ho cause I sure

could use the dough!

*   *   *   *   * 



The biggest rip-off in the hood

is the theft of childhood


A ten year old Junky

hustling a stolen television

to pay for his fix, sold to a

fifteen year old pimp with

a string of strung-out whores.


A thirteen year old sister ought

to be playing with dolls instead

of her own baby.


A fifteen year old brother should be

playing where he can smell real

grass instead of smoking grass.


And, the bitch of being called

boy or girl is when you’ve

never really been one!

*   *   *   *   *



I’ve always considered the term

African-American an anomaly


I was not born in Africa and

I am not American because

they won’t let me be.


I am not a ‘freedom seeker’,

that is not my thing! You will

never hear me sing,

“Let freedom ring.”

A freedom seeker?

That’s  not me. 

My name is

Sam Greenlee and

I was born free!

*   *   *   *   *



The chief thing

I’ve noted about

White folks is

that nowadays

they’re talking

about us in code;

otherwise called PC

When they say:

“crime in the streets”

or welfare cheats,

they talking about us.


In Britain

when they say

Immigrants, guess

who they mean?

I mean, they got

Cypriots, Pakistanis

Indians, Spanish an


but even if your


granddaddy was the

dude that turned on

the Bard in a stable an

caused him to write

Othello, you still

an Immigrant if your

skin is other than

fish-belly white.


Maybe it takes as

long to become a Black Briton

as it does to grow

them midland s lawns

nobody but birds

walk on.

Now, that would be cool

if they laid the

same standards on

 everybody else come

here since the

Norman Invasion

Like, how about that

German lady laying up

in Buckingham Palace?

I mean, how come the Queen

ain’t an Immigrant?

*   *   *   *   *


Black/White Studies


The young brother told me

proudly, that his school was

among the first to have a

Black Studies Department.


I gently told him that a true

Black college would have a

White Studies Department.

*   *   *   *   *



The mother called

me brother, like he

thought he was Abel

and I was Cain and

couldn’t understand

why I wouldn’t go

for his jive-ass game!

*   *   *   *   *

Blues for Stevie Wonder


I wish I could know

what Stevie know

I wish I could blow

like Stevie blow

I wish I could see

what Stevie see

I wish I could be

what Stevie be; and

the wonder of

Stevie Wonder be is

I can know what

Stevie know and

I can blow what

Stevie blow and

I can see what

Stevie see, cause

Stevie Wonder,

he be me!

*   *   *   *   *

Blues for Langston Hughes


Brother Langston

I never met you

But I know you

Your Semple sayings

saying things we

need to know.

Brother Langston

I know you

Brother Langston

I owe you, all of us

coming back home

where you never left.

We who never met you

we know you ; and we owe you.

Coming back home, 

where you never left!

*   *   *   *   *

Sam Greenlee (born July 13, 1930) is an African American writer, best known for his novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, first published in London by Allison & Busby in March 1969, which was made into the 1973 movie of the same name and won The Sunday Times Book of the Year award. Other works include Baghdad Blues, a 1976 novel based on his experiences traveling in Iraq in the 1950s, Blues for an African Princess, a 1971 collection of poems, and Ammunition, a 1975 collection of poems. In 1990 Greenlee was the Illinois poet laureate.

Born in Chicago, Greenlee attended the University of Wisconsin (BS, political science, 1952) and the University of Chicago (1954-7). He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He served in the military (1952-4), earning the rank of first lieutenant, and subsequently worked for the United States Information Agency, serving in Iraq (in 1958 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for bravery during the Baghdad revolution), Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece between 1957 and 1965. He undertook further study (1963-4) at the University of Thessaloniki, in Greece, where he lived for three years.—Wikipedia

*   *   *   *   *

Ammunition: Poetry and Other Raps

By Sam Greenlee

Sam Greenlee is also known for such works as Blues for an African Princess (1971), a collection of poems. His novel Baghdad Blues (1976) and Ammunition: Poetry and Other Raps (1975) both deal with African Americans’ pain, anger, and fear, particularly that of those who are caught up in the racism and oppression of government agencies. Greenlee’s contributions to the literary tradition in African American literature have caused his readers to examine closely the racial awareness or unawareness within agencies and institutions that are designed to serve all Americans. His presentation of African Americans’ duality and paradoxical existence in a racist society is still providing scholars with text to investigate the themes of racism. Greenlee is masterful in his presentation of characters and community; his work is saturated with the African American literary tradition.—Answers

*   *   *   *   *

Sam Greenlee is relaxed. He sits lotus style on a rainbow-striped blanket, rolling cigarettes and talking in reflective, short streams about the rage that fueled his 1969 underground classic The Spook Who Sat by the Door. “I planted the seed and I’ll live to see it grow,” says Greenlee. The seed was a portrait of a black CIA agent who trains a Chicago street gang to orchestrate a Mau Mau-style war on whitey. Its growth was stunted, Greenlee has long contended, by a campaign to keep the 1973 film version of the book out of theaters. “They haven’t discouraged me,” says Greenlee, 63. “I’m old but I’m not tired. I’m satisfied with my career, I’ve done the right thing.”

Growing up in the 30s and 40s in west Woodlawn, Greenlee lived an “idyllic” childhood filled with Sunday school, Boy Scouts, and the rural, southern values of his parents. He went to Englewood High and earned a track scholarship to the University of Wisconsin in 1948. He began a graduate degree in international relations at the University of Chicago. “I went to two white, brainwashing institutions. But I’m the black dog that didn’t fall for Pavlov’s scam,” he says with a chuckle.

Greenlee joined the foreign service in 1957. “I wanted to see the world,” he says, stroking his silver beard. “Baghdad was my first post; they were having a revolution. I was in Pakistan and Greece while both countries were having a coup. What I’ve lived is far more exciting than anything I could make up.”

After eight years, he left the foreign service but stayed on the Greek island of Mykonos, where he began writing his first novel. “I never could write while I was surrounded by those people,” he says of his colleagues. “I was so enraged when I came home every night. I was watching them undermine whole cultures. The U.S. is the biggest threat to world peace there is.”—the relaxed rage of Sam Greenlee 

 *   *   *   *   *

Baghdad Blues

The Revolution That Brought Saddam Hussein to Power

By Sam Greenlee

This book is based on the real life experience of a black man posted to Baghdad in the late 1950s and employed by the US Information Bureau. His white colleagues are totally out of touch with the emerging political unrest protesting the corrupt royalist regime and when the revolution erupts, the US embassy is shocked. The king it supports is killed and the entire city of Baghdad is plunged into political chaos and violence. Sam Greenlee is a most engaging story teller…a very interesting read! Gives insight into Saddam Hussein’s ability to rise to power given the preceding historical events.—amazon customer

*   *   *   *   *


 The Spook Who Sat by the Door is about a black CIA agent who masters the skills

of a spy and then  uses them to lead a black guerrilla movement in this country

The Spook Who Sat by the Door


On YouTube

The Spook Who Sat by the Door  / Part 2 of 11 / Part 3 of 11 / Part 4 of 11 / Part 5 of 11 / Part 6 of 11

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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If you like this page consider making a donation

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 30 October 2010



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Related files: Sam Greenlee’s Book (Wickham)  How the Riots Might Have Turned Out   Be-Bop Man/Be-Bop Woman   When Desoree Danced 

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