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Preface to a Ten Volume Hymnal
By Ireon Roach

if you look for that curse prayer put on me
you’ll never find it
just a corpse-less mother in the pigeon coop
you’ll never get a proper count of the stars again
just the holes they leave in the sky

you never met somebody
never open his mouth and speak sentences
like my father
they run on

he did a bit of a bid of a jittery jig/ big
bold and black/
balding early and bent/ bound
to shake and girate/
seize and cease/ fires
dance behind his eyes/
like his body behind his barre

I am unbound
yet you tell me that I am blessed

blood seems to find new ways
to slip onto your own hands
pray palm to flesh
to cleanse and listen

for this call to bathe from future stages
from some big mouth’d and ham-handed man

we did not flee
we trickster like john the conqueror
sprinkled in every root
from here to memphis

this poem comes from the mouth of the trumpet
the beak of the pigeon
the handle of the pan
the styx of every river
the wrong rung of the lord’s ladder
the long weight of the wedge of ibis you followed here

spit on this broom or
jump over it or
forge its handle of steel
either way
but make ritual of the sweeping

you get to smile
and be orange and

refuse to live in a world
which does whatsoever unto you
without you doing unto it
what I have bestowed upon you

I am a founder I know nothing
of the ego which sends me to ‘find’
I am a surrounder I know nothing
of the ease which makes me to ‘surrender’

I am everywhere/ all
over you/ the blood
that cleanses your sin/
the sin that cleanses your earth/ the earth
that swallows your empire

the bend
just around the bend
out of this sea and onto this coast and
follow your steel studded holy right hand to the bend
let your bones click into place
cough until you breathe

can tell you been on the island by the way you forgot to cry
can tell you been on the chain gang by the way you forgot to sing

you got to be something
you cant just be Here

and you can look
but we aint There no more

joe turner’s come
and gone and gone and gone and gone
we may as well have been governed by the wind’s brother

let your worries pace this bend
until a track you know come on back around
you laid it
who cares if you wear a hole in that new road

why aren’t you smiling,
my smiling boy?
why are you shining,
my shining man?
what are you missing
my missing girl,
but the dwelling place of God?

dissolve into your own light
into your own clasped hands and


the other way now

Ireon Roach
Commissioned by the Goodman Theatre, in collaboration with
The Poetry Foundation, in relation to their production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, for their 23/24 Season
April 2024

ABOUT Play on words: Poetry

joe turner’s come and gone

A journey of self-discovery leads to salvation in this major revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winner’s masterwork.


Upcoming event

Join us in conversation with Ireon Roach, a multidisciplinary artist and former winner of the August Wilson Monologue Competition. 





Ireon Roach is a Chicago-bred actor and writer excited to collaborate with Goodman Theater and the Poetry Foundation to offer a poetic companion to Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Chicago credits include cullud wattah (Victory Gardens Theater), Blood at the Root (Jackalope Theatre Company), and How We Got On (Haven Theatre Company). Other regional credits include School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (SpeakEasy Stage) and Laughs in Spanish (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre). Ireon has starred in the CW’s ‘4400’ and appeared in Nia DaCosta’s ‘Candyman’, Jennifer Reeder’s ‘Perpetrator’ and Clare Cooney’s ‘Departing Seniors’ (2023).