The horizon conquers the sun with mountains, exploding it into pieces of rainbow, as though a bomb went off in silence.
A man who has made a fortune in the oil business looks out across a city from his high-rise window, watching the horizon conquer the sun in the distance
The city exhales and pollution mixes with the sunset, scattering new colors throughout the sky like a bomb went off in silence.
This great American city stands in allegiance to the Bush presidency and rich CEO’s. Its monuments of capitalism conquer the sun.
Halfway around the world, the sky lacks such vibrance. Burning oil wells and cities fill the air thick with smoke: This bomb did not go off in silence.
Over the horizon comes a flock of jets; people search for shelter in the ruins of their homes. America conquers Iraq for a president, and another bomb goes off with violence.
Your cancer blossoms like the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb that detonates inside you, blaring like faith that drowns. A cell door shuts as it incarcerates
us inside this nightmare. Anti-theism awakens and without removing nails, I rip Christ from his throne the way chicken flesh tears off the bone. How can he fail
to protect you from disease and expect to still receive unconditional love from us like religious oblivious slaves? We open our eyes and watch the dove
ascend, fracture scriptures strangling our hearts, hands clasped, cancer dies in this atheist dark.
Blacked Out Too Soon
Nat Turner, Medgar Evers, Mark Clark, Bunchy Carter. Kurt Cobain, John Brown. Tony C., Dedan Kimathi, Dalal Mughrabi, Waruhiu Itote. Reggie Lewis, Patrice Lumumba. Ché Guevára, Ayyat al-Akhras, Butch Bosket, Wafa Idris, Len Bias. Seamus Costello, Augusto César Sandino. James Connolly, Bob Marley, Li’l Bobby Hutton. Michael Collins, Robert Johnson, George Jackson, Fred Hampton, Frantz Fanon, Bobby Sands. Crazy Horse. Martin Luther King, Tupac Amaru Shakur. Malcolm X.
But you’re gonna need a bulletproof soul… First time in Leniece’s room, I ask who’s singing on her stereo. She shows me an Ebony, Sade on the cover. How old do you think she is? It’s the first time I’ve heard of her. Um, twenty-seven? She’s forty-two.Wow, she’s still pretty hot.
Black girls are way prettier than white girls, I tell her. Are you serious? Kind of laughing as she says this, she looks at me like I’m joking. Well, what does your dad say? He doesn’t care, makes no difference to him. Leniece nods and seems impressed with my dad.
She asks my ethnicity and I say Irish. I ask her if she knows the source from which her bloodline flows. She shakes her head. A lonely searchlight emanating from her eyes projects a sad but familiar frustration. I can trace my family back only as far as South Carolina.
We sit side-by-side on her bed looking at photos of her life, but she wants me to see the people in the pictures, not just see photos as photos: her parents and sister, lots of relatives and friends.
Stories and names seep into perception— they are no longer just parts of pictures as they were but a few minutes ago.
Leniece points out a boy, tells me that he was her first love. Postscript: Went to college, met some other girl.
She muffles the nagging sun with the shade, alarm set to late afternoon. I am about to go when she drops a pillow beside her bed, like a declaration of faith or comfort in a new friendship.
Sade sings softly as I fall asleep. Is it a crime? I always notice when this song’s on. The pain and power of her voice spin the volume dial from the inside.
Clarity on the Rocks
Silence all of the clever metaphors that equate shit like scrambled porn to battle in war. Yes, I can squeeze vibrant juice jammed with vitamins from the driest pits of peaches eaten long ago. Just because it’s beautiful does not make it significant. Dry peach pits kneaded into verse are only nice. But I’d rather make juice that’s acidic, sweet, and bitter at the same time, rich with transcendent nutrients that rush the brain and heart like heroin. My mix will make you think that you’ve got daggers slashing the inside of your stomach, each incision sipping acid. This all-natural cocktail will make you strong, though it feels like it’s got a round-trip ticket when you drink it. But it’s too sticky and heavy to puke, so the shit you’re spraying is thin, watery poison, expunged from your body making room for clarity. I’ve got some parched shit way deeper than peaches to juice. Wait until you try the drink I wring from crack rock, as I transform its crackles and pops into splashes and drops. And don’t take that prose about dried-out leaves too seriously, ‘cause I’ve got urgent verses about dried-out pussy getting ripped and raped, and about dry eyes and cheeks in the face of rape, the crack plague, the self-hate that instigates the Black-on-Black Plague. Please, y’all got to drink this before it’s too late.
I. So Punk Rock
I’m gonna cut all my hair off, Leniece says, strolling alongside me from Simpson dining hall across asphalt, grass, and cement. It’s a grey October afternoon, between t-shirt and sweatshirt weather. Why? I ask, not understanding her issue with shoulder-length twisted locks. I’ve been getting perms my whole life, she says. Really? I say, because my mom’s had some perms to make her hair curl. I don’t have straight hair, she says as she looks at me like I should have known. It’s naturally nappy. I don’t quite get the significance, but punk rock taught me non-conformity so I say, Sweet. She smiles and rolls her eyes as she usually does when I use words like sweet and sketchy. I guess she senses my search for something monumental in a drastic haircut. We enter her room and she casts down her backpack. She starts clicking and typing at her computer. You have to see this.
II. How to Make a Slave
By Willie Lynch. Take these differences and make them bigger…use the dark skin slaves versus the light skin slaves, young versus old, male versus female…distrust is stronger than trust, envy is stronger than respect…distrust all Blacks. self re-fueling and self-generating for hundreds of years…and possibly forever. Pages scattered with old ads for bleaching creams, hair straighteners. You can pass for white! Makes black skin perfectly white! Guaranteed! III. Warrior
Let’s go find some clippers permed hair lies on square tiles dead crops across fields
for Amadou Diallo and Abner Louiama Finally, redemption, in this moment. Our power so present—night admits we own it. The spotlight shines down from the helicopter on our last stand to stop them from killing cops here. This homeboy questioned us, we all got pissed: Just let us search you and best you not resist! But his big lips kept spewing disrespect; this uppity darkie could not accept that we run these streets, that we own his block. I’ve had enough of this shit, I reach for my glock— This boy’s lucky the precinct counts bullets or we’d be using clips instead of clubs and kicks. He’s cursing whenever there’s not a boot in his mouth. We’re told words we should not use, told to leave them sunken beneath our tongues, submerged in the melting First Amendment, but they converge tonight with hot righteous spit and spray his proud face with disgrace: Coon! Monkey! Animal race! He tries to rise to (all four of) his feet; there’s no escape surrounded by an eight cop wreath. We give him a few limps like we’re letting him free, then club his back with swings like Jason Giambi. Homeruns crumple him and his hope like the Red Sox. Now he begs through bubbles of blood that stretch and pop at his nose and mouth, Please! Stop Officers! And suddenly, we’re this humble sambo’s masters. Too late to play house nigger, tar-black boy, You kept running your mouth, nigger, scarred-back boy. Gun in hand, I bend to the new topography of his face, his faint voice struggles to cop a plea. My eyes meet his one barely open eye that betrays his begging, glaring hate and pride, telling me to go fuck myself, just like all their eyes did as I failed to save a cop’s life whose body had become a sieve draining blood and bullets sent by a self-defense claiming Blood. I follow the path set by my great president— Bomb first, this is pre-emptive self-defense. Torso twisted, arm extended, release the tension. The rancid air of these streets parts for my pistol-whip as it lashes his eye shut. Now his face calls me massa. His limp body blows in our violent rain, warped and swollen like strange fruit in a hurricane. Tonight is about the All-American Way, freedom to speak without heed to what censors say, our freedom to police without worry of being called racist stopping blacks in Marcy. We are soldiers behind enemy lines without camouflage, targets for enemy nines, fighting back against some semi-American with a semi-automatic volunteering to spray subways for money that he could make at the job he could have but won’t take. Blood on pavement is payback for wages snatched from white hands maintaining white babies to pay for welfare queens in Cadillacs, black market gats for gangsters slanging crack. Breaking ribs build our own reparations for razors and rapes emancipation has birthed in alleys, around dark corners, for politically-correct endorsing of integrating big black dicks with our daughters. Bend him over; I’ve got a big black stick. Strip his ass; I’m gonna make him my bitch. I muscle the club in and up until he screams like a horror flick slut getting killed. Let’s lock him up, shackled, stripped, and sodomized. This is the Middle Passage, N.Y.P.D. style.
Disarmed and Impassioned
The blues draw me in like lips on the sad girl, the crimson grips my eyes like her nails do my back and I am captured.
Repetitive scrape-smack of knife on palette lasts ‘til forearm and wrist ache, searching for that rich and bright black of eyes that disarm and impassion. Mixed colors writhe, luminous and wet, awaiting their trip with the brush to be swirled and smeared, stroked and smacked across just primed and sanded canvas until they blend like sunsets or fire, until they twist around each other like fingers interlocked.
Manifest abstracts into concrete, sadness sinks into passion explodes colors more vibrant than love, something new, a hue just short of salvation: Some color never seen, only felt or imagined. A color composed under the notion that sunlight only hides the moon and starry sky.
Field Trip to a Museum in Spanish Harlem
Spring morning's sun burns heavy through the bus window
as I squint to see the skyline obscured
by dizzying punches of sun and eyelashes,
but I cannot decipher any steel-
boned, glass-hide towers that define this city’s
imperial palace in photographs and films.
Reflections and rays are scrambled like pay channels.
From the back of the bus, a classmate
raps along to a song on his headphones, Broken glass everywhere. The Message reaches us, on our way to the Schomburg. Another joint Diddy jacked. Public housing projects
stand like dying gardens stretching out
from both sides of the highway.
Yankee Stadium blooms, and we target it with middle fingers.
We are riding over the streets of Harlem;
We cannot spot a single white face and are bound to the bus windows, fogged by laughter and chatter, but our fingers wipe, leaving behind dirty words.
A teenager runs on the sidewalk with speed reserved for being late or running away when Brian announces, Look at this guy! I think he's running from the cops!
Everyone from one side dives across the aisle
to get a view, and we are all laughing. Teary-eyed, I can barely stop to take a breath because laughter propagates laughter. I'm watching through lines cleared of fog to form the letters of Harlem World. I notice a dog and this sight is a still-red coal that falls into my gasoline soul. Every laugh inside me is instantly incinerated when I see that boy running like a runaway trying to beat his own scent, like Kunta before they axed his foot, like this boy’s own enslaved ancestors, speed fueled by the fusion of terror and confusion, the hope for someplace better than here. That bloodline is still running, but the North Star faded once it reached New York. So now this manchild probably runs in circles like Claude Brown incarcerated in the Promised Land. I realize that the air in here is going stale, and I feel nauseous whenever someone speaks or at the slightest physical convergence.
Here in the back of the bus, it's the same old shit.
Four hours away from our small Massachusetts town,
we get off the bus and walk into the Schomburg. Shadows dominate. Inside light is as bold as blood on snow.
Heart of New England
If the cold rain falls hard enough, it muffles the murmur of the dying life-support machine, attached to an old woman in Worcester. IVs descend beneath her skin, raping veins with complacency. Only then is she able to ingest life in a place where the skyline never shines, but becomes bleached in the sun, and brick turns the color of a bloodstain after many futile attempts to wash it off.
When she was young, her parents enlisted Worcester’s best surgeons to saw through her skull and remove thoughts of leaving from her mind. Now she lies dreamless in a hospital bed. A television is bolted to the wall, eternally tuned to public access, calling Worcester the “heart of New England,” as though New England has a cancerous tumor on its heart. She awakes screaming
the name of the love of her life, a boy who escaped to California, sick of Worcester, of charading, of waiting for her. Tomorrow the Telegram runs her obituary, her life’s last word. It reads: Lifelong resident of Worcester.
Katrina Katrina Katrina
Katrina Katrina Katrina. The government knew you were riding in on the water like Christ obsessed with destruction, possessed by self-proclaimed Christians trumpeting state-supported executions. But the state sent no support, just let nature take its course, perform the execution. No charge or charges involved. Well, there’s one problem solved.
My pen’s almost dry, the sun’s almost up, but here I’m up again all night searching. Searching for inspiration, motivation, what’s the reason?, an AK-47. My surface might look placid, but you can’t grasp what goes on in the deep. My mind is too rapid to sleep, and my mind is too rabid to speak. So this line amasses scratches and streaks, as though my blood grew feet, clawed out of me, and danced a twenty-six step dressed in Black. This is my Red Cross, but this is not my Cross. Paper tigers kill nothing but time and paper martyrs bleed nothing but rhyme… Words gain their worth when they make someone hurt. Words become real when they make someone heal. Nothing will grow when blood rains on barren land, but I make flowers grow from weary hands. Poetry gives hope to throats choked with Iraqi sand; I swear it can. ‘Cause it douses serenity across the grumbling in my stomach, or rather, the screams in my soul--for a minute at least--once they’ve had their stories told. Because it’s hard to rest in peace when you die in the cargo hold; and it’s hard to rest in peace when you saw your own daughter sold. How much pain can one heart hold? And don’t forget those who can only rest in peace when they’re resting with a piece. I have been branded from inside by stolen land and genocide, lungs scraped raw by clawing, frantic hands of a woman pregnant with fair-skinned child. Banging on my voicebox, her screams spider-web through my bones from sternum to fingertips. It’s morning and the birds are chirping, but in my mourning, my concern is if this verse is working, if the words are burning (Babylon down). Words converge with nerves like sparks from the brain, coursing currents toward change, The earth has spun back to day.
He looks like a mother deer in a field while her fawns feed, watching for predators. Eyes dart, head continuously turning from right to left and left to right like a swing set sideways. He would spin it one hundred eighty degrees like an owl if he could. Paranoia has become a necessary color on the palette of his person.
He stands against an old dying building named after some ex-governor who determined it be erected as a part of some grand public housing scheme. Years later, it appears to have been part of some grand public housing scam. A garden of high-rises planted and packed, but never watered with anything but rancid and crack.
Just out of the orange-yellow drapery cast from the streetlight, he shivers even in his puffy, black down jacket. He pulls the faux-fur-lined hood up over his head trying to keep warm while he waits. Heater in his waist just makes him colder, Tims work to keep blood in freezing toes, pocketed hands fiddle with pre-paid cell.
Finally, a fiend, looking for a fix. During the exchange, he asserts himself as calmly as a butcher or bartender while eyes cast motion-sensitive lasers. Fix on a figure and he starts reaching before realizing it’s but a homeless man shuffling from one place to another, taking his suffering from one place to another.
The leaves slowly die their vibrant deaths. The sun grows distant, I become colder. From above, red leaves fall peacefully to the grass. As each leaf dies, it breathes life into winter.
The sun can barely warm me anymore, although summer seems so recent. Each dying leaf’s last breath is winter, soon the cold will strip the trees of life.
Summer seems so recent. I can still feel the hot sun drying the Atlantic off my body. Soon the trees will be stripped of life. The waves against the shore cease to sound like summer.
I stand far from the surf and keep the cold Atlantic off my body, I wish for last summer and you as I drown in memories. The waves crash against winter. The tide’s roar slowly deafens our summer.
Time pulls me from you and last summer. I am drowning in Fall and soon I’ll forget the way August felt, the falling leaves deafening the sounds of our summer. It’s like November is the only month I’ve ever known.
I’m falling, and soon I’ll forget the way you felt, And if I’m lucky, I’ll forget all about you. Is alone is the only thing I’ve ever been? I hope the snow is so distractingly beautiful
that I get lucky and forget all about you. Above me, the sky collapses and paints everything white. I hope the beauty of the snow distracts me enough to make me forget the vibrant leaves before they died.
The Only Heat Barbie Ever Held Was a Hair-Dryer
Surgical mask and skull cap are the doctor’s bandana and hood as he grips the scalpel in his latex fingerprint-less fist. He slashes through the baby girl’s umbilical cord, then punctures newborn skin with an I.V.’s cold, sterile needle, hooked to a bag marked Female, filled with liquid submission and liquid definition.
The boys move mountains of dirt with toy trucks, build cities and castles with blocks while she throws tea parties with Barbies. She watches a boy play with a lone G.I. Joe and its gun, fighting and conquering the world on his own. But she is bored with her one Barbie. She needs: an assortment of outfits, a pink convertible, an array of friends, and most importantly, Ken.
She grows up strangled in the internet, taking cues from teenage millionaires’ homemade sex-tapes. She knows nothing about the male gaze, except that she wants it to fall upon her like rain during a drought, so she starts shaving her body before it even has any hair. Sadistic sexist society yanks young girl’s teeth before she ever learns how to bite, saws off her fingers so they will never pull the trigger of a sawed-off. The only heat Barbie ever held was a hair-dryer.
She just grew breasts, now she’s got to learn how to flaunt them. She just grew breasts, now she’s got to learn what’s wrong with them. Twelve years-old and already trapped in the beast, inmate number tattooed in lower back. Property of the state, mugshots the child-porn-looking photos on Myspace. Capitalism is the prison and there’s no need for bars, except the ones she’ll end up dancing on.
She’s a neo-feminist, going with “the guys” to strip clubs, but each time a guy slips a dollar in some sequined g-string, she can only give seventy-five cents.
She’s told confidence comes from the surgeon’s scalpel. Relinquish her body, herself. Severing nerves that will never become electric with pleasure, reductively sculpted into a moving mannequin, her whole life ghost-written by the system.
The Passion of Andy Raya
The desert dried his eyes until they ceased to gleam and cracked like paintings in the sun. Andy Raya returned to Ceres and his youth a nineteen-year-old war vet, little-kid fear behind middle-finger eyes.
In a restaurant parking lot he rolled and scrambled over seats in the family car to get his gun before they shut the doors. In a letter to his cousin he lamented, I could’ve lived happily… Andy Raya used to confuse grade school classmates by saying see you next year when they got out for Christmas vacation. He used to paint a raw egg on Easter that he was supposed to hide, though always intended to break it over some other kid’s ill-fated head. Andy Raya used to have never been to Iraq.
The Marines claim Andy Raya never engaged in combat. Their story is that he operated in a combat zone, that he was psychologically sound, according to his company, never even down. But Andy Raya screeched a marker across cardboard ridges to render a sign that beat like a heart beneath floorboards. A snapshot captures him clutching truth of a kid gone from adolescence to desert trenches, from concern about a mid-term test to concern for the bullet that burns through his vest: OPERATION SEND ME HOME.
The Marines claim Andy Raya never engaged in combat. Their story is that he operated in a combat zone, that he was psychologically sound, according to his company, never even down. But Andy Raya drove supply trucks over a stretch of highway where convoys became “suicide trains”. Hearing was blasted from one of his ears because a bomb in a dog carcass blew up under a truck in his train. He saw it levitate like David Blaine, tossing its riders, breaking and burning onto the pavement like a sadistic little kid killing G.I. Joes, but soldiers of bone don’t resurrect like plastic action figures, G.I. Joe or jihadist Jesus Christ in camo. American and Iraqi blood looked the same as they watered and repainted the pavement.
The Marines claim Andy Raya never engaged in combat. Their story is that he operated in a combat zone, that he was psychologically sound, according to his company, never even down. But Andy Raya was shackled to his gun and the Flag down in the cargo hold like an African on the Middle-East Passage, hearts disregarded by heartless men condemning them to strife, chains, and violence, forced to toil for oil and work the land until McDonalds’ and strip malls blossom from the sand on a desert plantation.
Andy Raya knew he’d dive overboard; he’d rather die drowning than fight some old men’s war and die doubting in the place he claimed, You can’t picture Hell any worse than, returning to his mom and dad charred pieces and teeth inside a flag-draped coffin.
So one bleary night in January, Andy Raya went hunting like The Most Dangerous Game, and stalked with skills that in the Marines he was trained. But Andy Raya was a soldier, not a puppet of the state. A soldier in his heart and his head, a soldier too righteous and smart to see nothing wrong in killing a “target”: a young mother buying bread in a market. No, this government did not deserve quiet-- they were the ones who trained him to serve violence. While the trauma and the horror of it, he was just supposed to hide it. That would be like trying to keep the sun from rising.
Andy Raya’s only camouflage were shadows as he watched two officers exit the squad car and then disappeared around a tire store. Police boots clunked and spat as they stepped in the rain, sounds Andy Raya used to measure the approaching game. Invisible to his prey until two flashes and bangs birthed from the barrel of his SKS semi-automatic. Moving and shooting in tactics so practiced that they’d become automatic. His mind flashed back to shit he would never forget: Innocent dead, bodies missing heads, arms, and legs. Peering through gun smoke, he vowed not to miss heads, arms, and legs. One cop’s guts were ripped to ruins like bombed-out Baghdad buildings, while another’s body had been made a drain like the pigs did Diallo or non-English-speaking Iraqis at roadblocks.
Andy Raya dove into a suburban sea of backyards, drifting in grass for two hours. He assured residents that toward them he had no ill intent. He’d never harm civilians. Andy Raya was the honorable soldier the Army claims to create: one who knew that “free” meant “free”, and that ash- and blood- covered little boys crying at their mothers’ feet-- and only their feet--are not “collateral damage”.
As he hopped fences, his poncho would rise up behind him like wings. As he floated through the night, Andy Raya looked like an angel on a mission, or a study in contradiction: A heavenly being packing a gun. Block surrounded by a county’s supply of swine, Andy Raya hid from helicopter lights in trees’ shade, where he listened to the choppers and megaphones speak to him like the scream of the Reaper.
He stripped himself of threads and arms and scaled and descended a fence in one (trained) graceful motion, landing with hands up, immersed in searchlight like a spotlight that made the alley a stage, for the performance of a real-life Passion play. Guns were extensions of their hard-ons for revenge, and upon seeing Andy Raya, every officer stationed in that alley began blowing his load, and made Andy Raya’s body dance like a puppet strung to a speed-freak Gepetto. Arms outstretched, Andy Raya died for the sins of his country.
The hunters approached their kill and were denied the pleasure of believing their big guns had bled the angel’s last moments with fear and regret, for Andy Raya was defiant even in death. Stretched from shoulder-to-shoulder across the light-coffee back of Andy Raya was inked, Solo dios me puede juzgar.
Deep mahogany Penetrating, engulfing At the same time. Eyes.
Hips epitomize Divine sexuality Swaying abstract art
Hips hypnotize heart Eloquence exceeds the tongue Paint truth in the air
Tiny body brings
World to peace or to madness Colombian girl
Sing to the Tune of a Gun Being Loaded
smug smiles on display, politicians shaking hands, fucking each other. fucking the people with capitalist dicks ejaculate oil into puppet soldiers’ corpses in the name of big business endorsements. of course this war is never the source of hate for our nation’s fate is to take and to rape natives and slaves, anyone who does not want to be saved by a white christian god, his psychotic profits, plugging bullshit amendments to apprehend human rights, to apprehend movements and fights are silenced like forty-one shots that night in the Bronx addict babies cried for rocks are met with bullets of fundamentalist goverments with zionist aspirations toward extermination of the Palestinian nation. and you ask why I’d bomb police stations! let’s take guns, pistol whip pigs until they all sing the song of a throat choked with blood. can you say nigger with this heat between your teeth? you terrorize the streets, sodomize men and call it interrogation. my head’s plagued with questions bleeding tears from my eyes will never close because I’ll never know.
Warm apple aromas soften the touch of the new season’s breeze like a refreshing massage sculpted from wind’s eye-drying lashes. Autumn leaves float by atop the surface of the river; waters from the Mississippi to the Carribbean, the Atlantic to the Amazon, from the Rio Grande to the streets and alleys of New Orleans sink into each other and encircle American history, its sole source veins and lungs of the abandonded. Hundreds of years rising with Red, Brown, Black bodies like last Fall’s fallen foliage— pimped when in season, soon after suffocated under the snow— this month it has begun to overflow like a toilet in a mansion, fucking up our morning coffees and newspapers that reassure us that the blood is dammed in the Middle East and inner city streets. America bites into apple pie and water-soaked flesh squishes and squirts in its teeth.
The Sword and the Stone
The mine swallows my stomach’s growls like a drowning man’s scream. Broken fingernails trap dirt beneath. They call this mining, but none of it’s mine. All the while, making it possible for men to ask, Will you be mine? Over five-star wine and dine. If I whine, I die. There are no Valentines. Here we die for diamonds so that men can vie for diamonds and have women lie for diamonds. Each one I find brings only brief relief, as fading as a single sparkle on a stone, ‘cause Daddy’s dead and Mommy’s dying and here I am mining. They tell me to find shining diamonds. I’m trying, but I can’t help hear my sister crying. Now she’s only got one hand ‘cause she got caught lying down on the job when it got too tiring. That’s all I know of diamond cuts-- now a little girl’s arm ends in a stub. Exit at dusk like a soldier trudging out after surviving a battle. The sun is a burning cherry spraying its red juices across the sky. I’ve seen machetes spraying bodies’ red juices across the mine. There’s a Western fairytale called The Sword in the Stone. This is the real life tale of the Sword and the Stone.
Waves in the Dark
Somewhere behind us on this boardwalk, screams of people riding rollercoasters play like a looping background track to summer night. I hold you against me in an embrace scented by fruit shampoo and Atlantic air, watching sand, sea, and sky contradict each other, infallibly harmonious.
Each wave takes its turn reflecting the moon, it shimmers orange, briefly replacing vacant black before crashing and breaking against the sleeping shore. We drop whispers dressed with always and I promise, using forever as if we believe there’s nothing past the stars we can see.
Yet soon ferris wheels and rollercoasters hibernate as cities swallow summer, and naked trees reach for sun like starving hands grasping at food. Motel signs all concede vacancy. A plastic palm falls from a fake palm tree, fractured by the weight of wet coastal snow. This new year attacks us until we are waves in the dark, exploding against February shores.
When the Player Piano Dies
White guys don’t even look at me, she says. We sit on the big concrete piece of modern art at Redstone campus, a frozen sheet blowing in the wind. I do not notice much, only green grass and blue sky. People walk past. Leniece is from the Bronx, Christopher Columbus High, all Black and Latin kids. Her eyes hold mine. She says, I’ve had a lot of hate in me for all the things whites have done. I ask, Well what do you think of me? Our friendship founded on scorn for class assignments, conversations on papers that stretched to senseless, until a lunch two weeks ago when she said, You’ve never had a black olive? Eat this! So I did. She smiles at me. You seem like a very nice person. Then I smile and say, Thanks. The students and sun and buildings outside this stone magic carpet are a cliché.
I wished again today for seventh grade, when backyard woods were battlefields for games of war, and we’d throw baseballs like grenades. Never falling bombs, only falling rain.
Seventh grade ran out and my most recent photo of you shows you squinting under desert sun, gun in your hand demands respect. How many times has that gun helped plunder
villages and helped the innocent die? You said you wanted to fight oppression, but now you help to invade and colonize a nation in the name of America.
When you come home will you wear new beliefs in the oil and blood staining your fatigues?
What Good Is an Angel in Heaven?
What good is an angel in heaven, where the people are already saved, while mothers here must pick out coffins for sons who packed guns and didn’t give a fuck? Why are the angels all in heaven?
Maybe because they can’t help feeling the pain of the poor on hot summer nights, sweating in tenements, heads hurting from hunger and anger. Angels cannot fall asleep to the news.
For many, angels’ words are the only remedies for hopelessness that does not end in crack babies, cracked bodies, and cracked hearts. We demand salvation, but who will save the angel yelling out, I’m hopeless!?
Angels know not old or peaceful death or even rest. It would be futile to try to rest from feeling. Neither weed, liquor, nor women can dampen that consuming and sometimes-crippling love.
Angels die young and angels die hard, knowing and defiant. A stoplight in Vegas, a balcony in Memphis, always with violence. We hear bullets explode from barrels on missions to destroy revolution and hope and compassion, the sound of skin tearing, of ribs breaking, of lungs busting--lungs that breathed pollution so that others wouldn’t have to. Then silence
screams, from ballrooms in Harlem to jungles in Bolivia. When an angel dies, we do not mourn in quiet, but in riot, showing pigs that in us his soul still lives. The streets explode like a bomb was behind the martyr’s bullet wounds. Flames shimmer in tears, sweat, and broken glass.
But police reply with an attack, shoot some Black boy in the back, blood weaves through asphault cracks, spells out, “Come back.”