Sunday, January 25, 2015

Call and Response

In the tradition of
African-American gospel songs
There is a musical element
Known as call and response
Shout out and shout back

We shall overcome
A song that never ends
But only echoes
Louder and louder
Reverberating the call
Like a hymn within the vaulted walls
Of a church long burned down to the ground
The same ground watered by the blood
Of bodies deemed too black
To have ever known light
So we skirt over the issue
Until the uprising ensues
And we are screaming
Discordant and dismal
Over the sound of our
Common Humanity

Because when you water the ground with blood
The only thing that grows is blame

The only thing that grows is media coverage
That has hijacked our call
And engineered our response
The call: We shall overcome
The response: Black Lives Matter

Blue Lives Matter
All Lives Matter

As if we can give away meanings to lives
Like their gifts on one of Oprah's fucking talk shows

Your life gets to matter!
Your life gets to matter!
Your life gets to matter!

But no lives matter when we're
Beating each other black and blue
Missing the point
Missing the all-encompassing point
That we can't all be encompassed by
the politics of respectability
Because respectability says
If you just follow the law
You'll have nothing to worry about
If you just heed Jim Crow circling above your head
You won't have to worry about the noose circling around your neck

Have you ever seen a lynched body hanging from a tree
The way his legs sway and his mortality echoes
Such a heavy piece of strange fruit that the bow
Threatens to break
And how it doesn't
It just listens
Because it knows the sound of a lifeless body
Isn't a gospel song

The sound of a group of people
Telling you that they're being killed
Isn't a gospel song
There may be a call
But they don't need a response
Sometimes they just need you to shut up and listen.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bed (No Longer a Battleground, But a Resting Place)

"They call it night.
They call it night.
And I know it well." -- Beirut, Gulag Orkestar

I am grinding down the bones of my hands into salt
I am spreading them around the frame of my bed
Watching them drift slowly
With the feathers of my pillow
In the light of the pale winter moon
Invoking angels and night-whisperers
To weave protection songs around the frame of
my bed and reinforce the lattices of my fragile hopes
To ward off the threats that pervade in the night hours
When it's so dark that even God
(or the suggestion of God)
must strain his eye to see
Me a pillar of salt at his bronze feet

Give me a sign
That the sky
Will not open up to swallow me hole
That tomorrow is not just a bridge
To another tomorrow that is not just
a bridge to another tomorrow that is
not just a bridge to another tomorrow.....

The marrow in my bones
Is rich with the anticipation
Of the ritual burn
Of the clairvoyant candle
Darting out like a serpentine tongue
of flame to lap up some ripple of the future
With me epicentral to this extrasensory event
Shaking anxious and aware like a conscientious earthquake
Regretting its own aftershock

Give me a sign
That the Earth is not a jealous lover
Waiting to take me back under
And turn my bones into fountain fodder
So I can enjoy this affair with life
For what it is, as long as possible
With no specter perched on my shoulder
Whispering doom disguised as pessimist's truth
So that every victory feels like someone let me win

I am grinding down my bones into salt
My feather pillows into angel appeal
For a breath of fresh air
And a hope that is fragile and enduring.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dual Heart

May your feet march to the war cry of your impending victory
Ambition thrust up like trees lancing through the sky
Like arboreal spears planted into the ground
As seeds were they, so you are too
For as they try to bury you
You grow and thrive, not to be denied

The red, ravaged heart
Beats for peace, beats for healing
Sanguine and hopeful

My mother once told me
That you will meet many a man
Who thinks himself Colossus
Who will want to tower over you like you are Rhodes
But you are not
You are Olympus, and gods dwell indelibly in you

As all stones wither
So Colossus will crumble
He must yield to time

We all yield to:

Time   and space
Light  and darkness
summer and  winter

We all yield to the oppositional forces
That reflect the all-encompassing duality of our nature
To remind us that we, in our imperfect nature, know nothing of love and hate
Yet designate our places on these spectrums as either good or evil

Playing angels' advocate even when angels look down on us with pointed toes
asking: "what are their hearts?"
Playing devils' advocate even when devils sneer up to us with pointed tails
asking: "what are their hearts?"

What are their hearts that their souls shrink
In the presence of information that can expand their minds?

Who, in the span of their short lifetimes, imagine they can understand
what it means to deserve to go to Heaven
And stand in the presence of those iridescent gates
To join that sanctimonious fan club

Who, in the span of their short lifetimes, imagine they can understand
what it means to deserve not to go to Hell
And stand pitiful over that pit of incandescent flame
To join that iconoclastic fan club

Angels flap their wings
Devils whet and hone their forks
We stand inbetween
Knowing nothing of either
We imagine all.