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 racial tension 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 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 because 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 leaving is the glue holding them together. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Microdream: Laundromat

In the laundromat
People fold glimpses of their lives
On top of industrial shelves
Before placing them neatly
Back into unstacked baskets

Washers bend and buzz and splash
Dryers heave and moan with labored heat
As boxers, briefs, bras and other unmentionables
Are churned within the stomachs of steel

Intimacy is manufactured and digested here

I stare as the cyclical melodrama of my own dryer plays out
Thrown back and forth for the duration of the longest 20 minutes
I have ever lived

And I am struck with a sense of recognition, deja vu
I have seen this cycle played out before

Articles of color tossed about
By forces outside of our control

Monday, May 29, 2017

Gentle Arts

Open laptop Open
Google search engine
Google Instant

Is drowning
A quick death

Is drowning or burning worse?

I recall a memory that burns like wine
A past lover warms my hand with his, while we sit
on a city bus Stranger's stares burn like halogen lamps
We are hypervisible in their gaze By virtue of experience
 I am more well-versed in the art of being seen
He fidgets nervously like he needs his body to speak

But the dead cannot speak
And our social death is activated
By negative space between the past's compensation
And the present's intensity
My body melts into salt
and water I submerge him in my gentle sea
As we flicker outside of space and time

Our bodies propel like jellyfish: temporal
Transulecent shapes at once distinct and indistinguishable
From the surrounding marine
We have inverted the gentle art of being seen
We have invented the gentle art of being hidden

Do you understand the violence it took to become this gentle?

In a moment of joy I gasp at this new means of survival
And forget my shape and revert back to a body
a pillar of salt with Water filled
and stomach
 a whirlpool of bile

Internal and external pressures equalize And collaborate
on the graceful execution of my demise
Water and air mix with the earth of my bone
 to seal my fate I spasm in reflexive protest at my aquatic death
In a moment of subemersive clarity I remember how many times
I have died before and been reborn
Every instance of life and death and life an death stacks on top
Of each other like Russian dolls of consciousness

The violent sea is now a gentle womb
And I am once again flowing into the shock of life

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mandela Effect

Three poets are riding in a clown car
We speak in alternating tones
Our voices swimming
In the amniotic flow
Of the moonlit highway

Topics range from punk to poetry
To astrology to the Mandela Effect:

A collective mis-remembering of details that conjures up alternate memories
In certain spaces between worlds you can glimpse the birth of these adjacent truths

The highway at 3AM is one of these
Interstitial gaps in reality

Behind us a siren calls
And our world flashes
Into a kaleidoscope
Of sapphire light

In one world this is a cop car
In another world this is an earthbound constellation
Of shooting stars come to perch atop our gravity
A being clad in monochrome steps out of the car

In one world he is a police officer
In another world he is an extrajudicial bounty hunter
He asks one poet if he knows why he is being pulled over

I can almost see the words "respect" and "nonthreatening" and "compliance" flash
Across his pale face as he answers
The other poets sit still like lumps of coal
Buried deep in the earth

We are blending into the night
We have done this many times before
Holding our breaths to slow the pulse
Of our black hearts

He cannot see us...or he chooses not to...

I can glimpse another world opening
As the officer walks back to his car
To process the "license and registration"

In this world I am in the driver's seat
In this world I am pulled out of the car
And pressed into the asphalt like I belong there
The words "resist" and "noncompliance" and "oxgyen" flash
Across my darkened face

I am brought back to the world that is

The officer comes back to the driver's seat
That I am not in and tells my friend -- the poet
To be more careful

He walks away
Me ant the other poet release our breaths
In gasps of air

We have melted back into the world that is

In this world we return to the amniotic flow of the moonlight highway
In another world our blood flows like my grandma's tears
My breath is gone
I cannot breathe

Monday, January 23, 2017

Black Teenager

I see you looking at me
From a distance
As far away
As 10 years ago

You look at me like
I'm about to give you
All the easy answers
To all the hard questions you've been living


"When is the money going to run out?"
"Will I ever fall in love
"Will my skin ever stop feeling like a curse?"
"Will I ever meet God again. If I do will He love me?"

More importantly -- will  I let him??

Like an oracle
I take 10 years of your time as an offering
Then answer you in riddles
I say things like the answers you're looking for
Can't be found or given
You can only live them.

The money will never run out because your family
Can't bear to say no to their firstborn blood
And sometimes that will comfort you
Most times it will eat you alive.

You will fall in love and have your heartbroken
So thoroughly that all the love you thought
You didn't have will spill out of you in a red tide
Onto a dirty mattress in a small, 2-bedroom house
you are trapped inside

You will dress that wound
In your Sunday best
Walking with your head held high
Not cause of your pride
But cause you're afraid to look down
And just like that
Just like a curse manifesting in the moonlight

God will peer through your window
Ask you where you've been hiding this whole time
And you will say
In this skin so dark you couldn't see me in broad daylight

And he will laugh
The sound of God laughing is you waking up at 6:00am
When three hours earlier you couldn't even imagine still being here

You'll ask him where's been this whole time
And he'll ask if you'd like for him to take you there
And you'll say yes
When you arrive you will see the pearls and know where you are
Realize you were never too concerned with meeting God again
You just wanted to know where he live
To see where he wakes up at 6AM
You will call it heaven -- a place where you can love all the people you couldn't on Earth
And you will call it good.