Makalani (or “mak”) Bandele is a Louisville, KY native. He is an ordained Baptist minister and pastored churches in North Carolina before becoming a writer, musician, and freelance instructor of Literature and Creative Writing. He holds degrees from the University of Notre Dame and Shaw University-Divinity School. A member of the Affrilachian Poets since 2008, Makalani is the recipient of an Ernest Sandeen Poetry Prize, a Literary LEO 1st Prize in Poetry, and a fellowship from Cave Canem Foundation. His poetry has been anthologized in My Brothers’ Keeper and Storytellers, and can be read in the pages of Mythium Literary Magazine, Tidal Basin Review, Pluck! the Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture, Black Arts Quarterly, Platte Valley Review and Sou’wester. Makalani has a self-published chapbook called the Cadence of Echoes, and Hellfightin’, published by Willow Books, is his first full-length volume of poetry.

Source: Cave Canem

A Black History Lesson (February 2010)


he pants and wags frenziedly,
an old lingue of a dog looking out of his only eye
at me, his last hope for a song.

i shall call him “cave canem,” as it is written.

he don’t look like much. but i hear
the forging of prometheus’ bonds
in the depths of his dark, reddish brown tone.
you get your sound from the blood
of a tree, not the skin. a membranophone,
he’s a shell of what he shall be,
with the black cord-laced iron ring
of 27 looped knots snug around his waist, promising
to help me root into unconscious
(kack, kadack ku-kadack, kadack ku-kadack,
kadack ku-kadack),
and discover my own distinctive way to say
anke dje, anke be.

i must cover his mouth for him to speak.

thus begins black history month— an hourglass,
open at both ends. my hands ring
with redness, throb
with a black history lesson
older than the nina, the pinta,
and the santa maria, older than cordoba.

baba, how old is this tradition? good question
son, you need to keep pulling, keep pulling.