The Cruelty of Age in Lorenzo Thomas

The Cruelty of Age in Lorenzo Thomas


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




Lorenzo Thomas’ “Tirade” is a poem that comments on growing old—

gracefully. It is a wise poem that “clings to you like a child to her broken doll,”


Van G. Garrett



Books by Lorenzo Thomas


Dancing on Main Street  / Sing the Sun Up / Chances Are Few


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The Cruelty of Age 

in Lorenzo Thomas’ “Tirade”


A Critical Analysis  by Van G. Garrett

To mature in age is to see the world change and reinvent itself. An experience that makes one wise, elated, melancholy, and fearful. It is the infusing and blending of the bitter and sweet, which produces a metaphorical wine, imbibed or rejected.

Widely-published poet Lorenzo Thomas, known for his instrumental role in the Black Arts Movement, explores the life-altering ‘wine-making process’ in “Tirade” taken from his latest book Dancing on Main Street :



           By Lorenzo Thomas


Now I know old age is cruel

It brings fears you never knew


There is a hazard in the morning sun,

A thirty percent chance

This day will pass without

The birth of a regret

Or the blossoming of a sorrow

So well behaved and mild

Shyly, patiently

Gaining courage all these years

Blurting into the bliss

You’ve sown around you


These passions make your life last longer

Waiting for the day

You can no longer push them away.

Arms weakened,

Your heart grows stronger

And wisdom clinging to you like a child

To her broken doll,

You may finally sort everything out

And end with nothing

Left to fear tomorrow

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In the poem’s invocation the reader discovers “old age is cruel” and it supplies fearful uncertainty, trepidation.

The functionality of the poem, however, works well, as its reflective tone narrates ironies and contrasts with lips pressed by maturity and experience that illustrates growing old is not a completely cruel phenomenon.

Lines like, “This day will pass without/ The birth of a regret,” “ the blossoming of a sorrow,” “These passions make your life last longer”, and “Arms weakened, / Your heart grows stronger” create a stream of consciousness that is descriptive and lucid. These lines are not pedantic ramblings searching for thoughts or flightless words looking for a nest, rather this meditative verse is aware of the brilliance and power of poetry and it skillfully utilizes deliberate pauses and well-structured line breaks for emphasis and pacing.

Additionally, “This day will pass without/ The birth of a regret” exemplifies how Thomas not only crafts the opposites “passing” (or death) and “birth” (or life), but he enjambs the line to create the motif of being pregnant with ideas of regret, fear, and sorrow, explored in forthcoming lines, where he contends uncertainty perpetuates life and causes one’s heart to grow stronger. If one is not wise he/she may shun these occurrences and “finally sort everything out/ And end with nothing/ Left to fear tomorrow”, a revelation life and uncertainty is synonymous. 

Lorenzo Thomas’ “Tirade” is a poem that comments on growing old—gracefully. It is a wise poem that “clings to you like a child to her broken doll,” and unlike a “traditional” tirade it allows the reader (young or old) to become empathetic, because he/she has the luxury of processing lines that have the capacity to move with a delirious momentum. A momentum not only found in “Tirade,” but a jetting and spiraling magnetism experienced in 143 other pages “wine-pressed” with maturity and experience in the vineyard of Dancing on Main Street.

Lorenzo Thomas is a recipient of two Poets Foundation awards and the Lucille Medwick Prize. He is a founding member of the Umbra workshop, and his poems and reviews have been published in Callaloo, African American Review, The Paris Review, and elsewhere.

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Van G. Garrett, a writer, photographer, and teacher from Houston, TX can best be described as a “contemporary courier of creativity.”  Garrett, a 1999 graduate of Houston Baptist University, has a BA in English (with an emphasis in creative writing) and Mass Media (with an emphasis in print) which he has utilized as demonstrated by his various publications and honors. He was awarded the Danny Lee Lawrence prize for poetry in 1999, a 2002 Callaloo Creative Writing Fellowship for poetry, and his poems have appeared in Rolling Out, Life Imitating Art, Swirl, Drumvoices Review, Curbside Review, Shanks’ Mare, Urban Beat, E! Scene and elsewhere. His photography has appeared in Source, has been contracted by Capitol Records, and has been on display at the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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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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

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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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update 8 July 2008



Home  Thomas Long Table  

Related files: Instructions for Your New Osiris  The Cruelty of Age     12 jazz haiku  for nia long   It’s That Time Again   African Folktales    Lorenzo Thomas Panel    remembering professor lorenzo thomas 

Poetry and National Security 

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