Everybody is already
An existential tag line
Money is current
I would like to not live
paycheck to paycheck
You could make a pun on currency
but not quite
Money is an energy nonetheless
Dark space Dark water
A long silent drive
Driving is my personality
The methods of one wor(l)d revealing
the hidden harmonies of another
Prayer card Lotto ticket You occupy
My payment has not arrived
New York City, 2001
One night, not long after the disaster,
as our train was passing Astor,
the car door opened with a shudder
and a girl came flying down the aisle,
hair that looked to be all feathers
and a half-moon smile
making open air of our small car.
The crowd ignored her or they muttered
“Hey, excuse me” as they passed her
when the train had paused at Rector.
The specter crowed “Excuse me,” swiftly
turned, and ran back up the corridor,
then stopped for me.
We dove under the river.
She took my head between her fingers,
squeezing till the birds began to stir.
And then from out my eyes and ears
a flock came forth—I couldn’t think or hear
or breathe or see within that feather-world
so silently I thanked her.
Such things were common after the disaster.
It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.
A black God touched me today and I knew I was a poet. When I produce
poetry I am responding to a God who touched me in a perverse way. The
state of my text is an act of worship to a black female God that told me to
worship capital. From a business perspective my poetics is about
marketing a God who fondles with my white self. This is what makes my
poetry so friendly to the void in the world. I marketed a God who exploits
me to bring her message of panic to the poetry sector. I was watching a
Kenneth Anger film when a large aphrodisiac God converged on me and
told me to create a poem that pleases her. The results of her visit are
collected in books called Hit Wave and Right Now the Music and the Life
Rule. The text in these books is to give the audience hope for life today
because a black female God told me to.
Many of my race have lived long without the touch of
these fine things which separate us from beasts. Things
I call my own now. Having served thirty-six years as needleman
for a family far more ape than we will ever be, I rode
the moonlight train to find my free. Up here it is colder than I like,
but the gentlemen admire my frock coats above all. I taught my son this trade
and hope this picture I made will help retrieve him. Come summer I leave
this coast for Philadelphia where I hear we of color can breathe yet more free.
Tonight I stitch. The breeze off the bay smells of aria. It is almost the season for cloaks.
This, we tiptoe.
This, we flower in euphemism.
The street has swallowed itself into border. Into railroad track.
This, where the bus line ends.
This, where little boys bike across curfew and into eulogy.
This, where board-slapped windows domino into mansions.
Runaway men into joggers.
This, where Oak Park River Forest alumni rep westside,
Redlands East Valley minstrels “Gangsta Day” during spirit week.
This, where the grass and the quiet
lull mothers to sleep.
This, where your heart is not yet
a restless telephone wire shackled to the ankle
of every one you have ever loved after sunset.
This, where the news stations tell you everything you know about
what lives across your street, outside of your living room window,
at the end of your driveway.
This, deliberate. This, abrupt.
This, sloppy stitching.
Here, you are exception,
urban, and articulate.
The black friend that let them poke pencils through your kink that one time
while you curled a trembling smile, pretending not to be
token or voodoo doll,
half house, half field
a Susie Carmichael or Huxtable.
The black family in a White House
ran north and bought the plantation.
This all too familiar of being someplace but not.
You were raised on “twice as good.”
Mama left the westside when you were two.
You were raised into valley-girl accent.
Your voice lost all of its skyline until
you went to high school through metal detectors.
You were raised on ditches and division streets.
Here, where you were born before you were conceived.
Here, where your cousin lives in the basement.
Here is your first real boyfriend
the first tongue in your mouth, and first
call from the county.
Here is the splintered wall your back will know.
Here, where you are no bourgeois success story,
just lucky enough to slip through cracks and make it
to your front door each night.
Here is where your ashes will be scattered.
Here is your home 6 years from now.
Here is your home 50 years ago.
Here is your redemption skin.
Your corner store.
Your corner stone.
Here is your Gramma’s house and dusted porcelain
and stuffed bears on the living room walls.
Here, where everything grows without permission.
Here, where sunflowers rise from the potholes
each and every summer.
Errol drives me to Treasure Beach It’s an old story, the terrible storm
swerving the dark country roads the ship going down, half the sailors
I think about what you will be, your mix drowned, half swimming the
white, black, Chinese, and your father’s slate waves, spat hard onto shore
Scottish-Englishness. We cross the Black River Smashed crates, bodies
where they shipped cane sugar and molasses choking on the black sand
upstream past a sign One man stands — What is this place? A woman
for Lover’s Leap. The air stinks of sulphur in the trees, one hand raised
Errol drops me at a blue gate. Be safe This is how the Scotsmen came
behind the house, the thin beach why the black people here have red hair
of black sand, the water warm and gray Or the other story, no storm
I am deep before I know it, groundless no wrecked ship. Just the miles
the swell stops the sickness of cane fields and mulatto children named
under a crooked tree, perched on sea rocks McDonald or McArthur for
two fishermen in torn denims, smoking their fathers, who owned them
I dry in the sun. They pass, turn, come close Nothing grows at Lover’s Leap
they have rust afros, gold faces splashed with freckles where two runaways
one ripped with muscle, one with eyes cornered by their master, held hands
like razors. What you want here they say and jumped down into the clouds