Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lo-Fi Labor

Find me in my real life
Hardworking and laborious
With a loosening knee
And a tightening mind

If I told you I"d been working since I was 12
Would you believe me?
If I worked myself to death
Would you call it noble?
Stick a Benjamin in my mouth and call it a flower.
Hope it pays for my Uber across the river Styx?

Thought if I did my life right it would all make sense
But now im slugging through 60 hour work weeks for dollars and cents
My mind is unraveling
My loose knee is throbbing and im swirling and recessed
The void in me twirling and depressed

Words can't be flowers when you're working past the 9-5
And the 9-5 becomes the 6-3
But I know you'll stick a dollar bill in my mouth when you bury me

Haunted by the ghosts of all the time I've killed
Trying to stuff the hungry maw of a bank account
Listening to lo-fi hip hop in my down time
Hoping I can unwind in time
Before I clock back in for my next shift

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Neckbones

I

My grandmother washes neckbones
Under warm, running water
She handles them gently
As if she understands
The trauma of slaughter
How it pulls you out of your bed
And into someone else's kitchen
Onto someone else's cutting board

She handles them gently
As if to apologize for their first life
And prepare them for their second


I'm feeling bored and helpful
I hover about the kitchen
Ready to be commanded
But she waves me off

"This is women's work"

I watch her fingers
As she pulls apart blood, cartilage, and fat
To prepare the meat for the final rinse before the salt
The blood runs down her hands
A bright red, on tender brown

II

Where did our blood and our skin come from?
From which canal of history did our family flow?
How many of us passed through the Atlantic?
What bridges did we cross?
Who did we leave behind and who did we take in?

I don't know where our black skin began
But I do know that everyone I see wearing it
Feels like a magnet trying to pull a compass towards true north
Our fields are disrupted and we're all going haywire
Culture is diaspora
Our history is dislocated
Whose job is it to pull us all back together again?

III

My grandmother finishes salting the meat
She tosses it in a large pot with onions and garlic
She sets the stove to medium-high
The water begins to writhe with heat
She sets the stove to medium-low
The water simmers, denied its struggle

"Grandma, where did we come from?"

She writhes and simmers
Tells me not to worry about it

"We're black. Black is all we ever were and it's all we'll ever be. We're just like
any other nigger family in Athens, Georgia.

Her field exudes
My compass spins

Who taught us how to do this to each other?

In the pot, on the stove
The neckbones soften
In anticipation
Of their second life





Food Journal #1

Morning:

One pack of Trader Joe's trail mix (210 calories)
One bottle of water (0 calories)
One cup of coffee (0 calories if I can manage not to spoon suger into it)

Afternoon:

Breathe in, a hill
Breathe out, a valley
Breathe in, a hill
Breathe out, a valley

Can I be both?
A hill and a valley?
A peak and its base?
A hunger and the will that fights it?

Night:

A stir fry consisting of the following ingredients

Carrots: (0g fat, 7 carb, 28 calories)

Mushrooms: (0.3g fat, 3.1g carbs, 21 calories)

Bell peppers: (0.2g fat, 6g carbs, 24 calories)

Brocolli: (0.6g fat, 6g carbs, 33 calories)

I stopped eating rice a long time ago.

Fasting

My bony finger points to a popcorn ceiling
With the tip of my fingernail
I trace the meter of the white stucco's pattern
I measure the hills and valleys of its texture
Each hill, stressed
Each valley, unstressed

The alternation between high and low
Suggests elasticity
But I know this ceiling is as fixed to this house
As the sky is held firm by the sun's gilded rays of light

The body on the other hand
Stressess and compresses like nobody's business
I breathe in, drink a glass of water -- my stomach, a hill
I breathe out, I breathe out -- my stomach, a valley

Am I made out of air or water?
Can I be both?

Am I hunger or am I the will that fights it?
(Can I be both?)

My stomach swells with hunger
I clench my fist
drink some water, drink some coffee

This is religious whether I want it to be or not

Saturday, December 16, 2017

hurthistory (rough draft)


My grandmother tells me a story of my great-grandfather
Tells me he was one of the first black men in my hometown
To own a house and a car
And how he used his history of hurt to drive him forward and secure a legacy

My grandfather tells me a story of my great-grandmother
Who loved her husband so fiercely
That she died three months after he did
Feeling that she had given all the love that she could in this world
Her history of hurt layered within a mortal and binding love

If I told them that I had their blood
Mingling their heritage into my veins
Would they be proud of the histories they made
And the lives their legacies set into motion?

Would they offer me an old spiritual to sing
Through my own history of hurt?

To get me through

   A twelve hour shift
   Cracked and labored hands
   A rolled ankle

To get me through

   A racist president
   A rigged economy
   A bad drinking habit

To get me through

   Men who cannot love me
   Me when I cannot recognize myself in the mirror
   Mirrors when they burn my image into their eyes

To get me through

   Manic episodes of running for hours at a time in search of a new body to live in

My father's thirsty ghosts reach for drinks on the shelves of the ribs he gave me...
Their phantom fingers drop tips in my diaphragm for my trouble
And they whisper his sins, flowing his history of hurt
Through plasmic ears, hoping that I'm listening and learning.

My mother's tired ghosts search for spare change and late notices in my lungs
They pull out food stamp letters and job applications underneath my liver
The whole time whispering her history of hurt, her litany of lives wrapped up in cycles of struggle

There is a history of hurt holding me at bay
From loving myself and other people







Sunday, October 22, 2017

toothworker Irough draft)

Not much imagination is needed to compare
A restaurant in the weeds to a battleground in the trenches
Wading through waves of antiseptic slosh to get to your next checkpoint
Milling around like frantic ants being smoked out of our livelihood
But are we just ants?

No, hardly.

We're ants with DREAMS!!

Kris wants to be an actress on Broadway.
Jacob wants a few extra hours of sleep before he clocks into his day job.
Kyler just wants to make it back home in time to catch her girlfriend still awake so they can be
a family if only for just three hours.

To be working class to exist within the interstitial spaces of time.
Not yet asleep but not yet awake.
But always observing.

Countless people without homes scramble through bodegas and alleyways for a hint of welcome.
Dayfolk dipping their toes into the night to get a taste of the other sight before retreating to
their sunlit mattresses.

And me dancing between bubbles, distracting myself from more cosmic truths.
Plates stack like bills.
Bills stack like plates.
And I'm keeping my head above water.

But am I still the sharp tooth I thought I was?
Or am I ground down by the the 9-5 and 6-3?
Another casualty of a reckless market?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Racism in Three Retellings of Magic

I get a letter in the mail from the library in Athens saying that a book I borrowed during summer camp is 3 months overdue. If I don't return the book in 2 weeks I'll have to pay the county $900 dollars in late fees (or at least it FEELS like $900 when your 12 years old and can't remember the exact amount). I ask my grandmother to take me to the librarian to explain that I had actually left the book after I checked it out -- so it should actually still be at the library. We get there and the librarian looks at me through leery eyes. You can tell she barely believes me when I plead my case, but I assume that's because the case itself is just so hard to believe. My grandmother watches observantly the entire time. She's not amused. The librarian looks in the system and finds that the book had been returned even though my account had still been flagged. She sends me away. I am relieved. When my grandmother and I get back in the car, she explains to me why she felt so uncomfortable during the visit. She says that watching me try to prove my innocence to that older, white librarian and her resultant disdain, reminded her of growing up in Georgia in the 1950s and how black people were treated so poorly by whites during that time. In that moment, too young to try and wrap my head around the cosmic horror of racism at that age, I

       Peer out of the car window and will myself into the greenery zooming past our window. My black skin molds itself into the soil of the summer earth. I am surrounded by earthworms, beetles, tree roots, and dirt. I relate my story to them, and ask, if they were the librarian, would they have believed my story. Would they have believed that boys like me could leave books at the library after rushing back to a van to get back to their summer camp? The earthworm slithers around my soil and takes a taste. He tells me that I taste reliable and he had no reason to believe that I was untrustworthy. I hope that all the magic I have is enough to stay in the ground for all of eternity. 

I am 18 years old and I am walking back from a late night of studying in the library. The dorm is only about half a mile from the library. Truthfully, I enjoy these walks back because they are rare, pristine times in which I am not needed by a class, job, or internship. It's just me and my headphones in the willful, omniscient night. As I walk down the sidewalk, I notice a white woman who looks like she might be in her mid-20s walking on the same side of the sidewalk as me. I am never sure what to do in these moments. Do I walk slower so she doesn't feel like I'm trying to encroach on her space? Do I walk faster and try and pass her so that the tense moment of racial ambiguity can strip itself away like a band-aid? It doesn't matter. She makes the decision for me. She looks back behind her and sees my nocturne frame walking in the shadows of the night, illuminated momentarily under the streetlamp like a fleeting moth. She clutches her purse and swiftly crosses to the other side of the street. I'm not quite sure how I feel about her decision, but when the ambiguity of feeling takes hold I--

    Call out to the spirit of her purse in a moment of inanimate communion. Her purse approaches me in the form of a slithering leather snake; a call-back to its previous life. We are not quite sure how to communicate. I wonder if the snake only knows how to hiss, but am relieved to find it speaks fluent English. I ask her if there was anything I could have done to make myself less ambiguously threatening. The snake suggested that I carry a messenger bag or suitcase studded with garish rhinestones. She says that no one who would carry something that tacky could be considered dangerous. She pauses for a moment of self-reflection and looks back at her owner and gives me a knowing smile. We both chuckle briefly under the streetlamp before she slithers back and leaves me to walk back to my dorm contemplating snakes, leather, rhinestones, and if I even NEED a messenger bag....

At 21 years of age I am sitting in an apartment drinking a 40 oz of Colt 45 because it is cheap. My boyfriend at the time is sitting on the couch next to me because against all odds I have found someone to love in these modern times. He gets a call on his cellphone and wrinkles his face at the caller ID. I ask who it is. He tells me it's his mom. We glance at each other briefly with a look of mutual concern. He tells me he's going to take the call outside. I agree reluctantly or understandingly. To this day I am not sure which. When he returns he has the same somber look he always has after talking to his parents. I ask what they talked about and he says the usual: school, work, you. I ask him if his mom asked about me and he says no. He tried to bring me up but when they heard my name they changed the subject. The subject being a girl he's been dating in addition to me. In these modern times, it seems like most people are polyamorous. He says that they asked about her, and if he was planning to get serious with her. He breaks down in front of me. He tells me, through tears, that he didn't realize how hard it would be to date a man -- let alone a black man. I can feel him readying the guillotine with his tongue and I--

      Focus on a jar of honey that has been sitting on his counter for the past few days. We had been using it to mull wine during the winter with cloves and cinnamon. I can no longer hear the words he's saying as my ears melt into syrup. My arms drip. My legs drip. My eyes glaze. I am crystallized into a honeycomb. I can feel a warmth pulsing around me. I call out to the warmth around me and receive a message in return. I can feel him, his girlfriend, his family, her family. I am the honey between the interstices of their combs. My sacrifice is the glue holding them together.