08 July 2016

115.

It's clearly been a while ... and I'd hoped that the inclination to return to this Jungle would be under better circumstances. What brings me back is the need to fall at the feet of the word. To break silence in the midst of a world of grief is heavy-hearted, but it is also heart-healing.

I began working on this piece when it was shared that the total number of black men slain by police in 2016 was 115. It has since risen above that count, and while the number may seem small in comparison to the lives lost every day, all year, sum and total ... for me, death is a weight, and 115 or 15 or 5 is too heavy. And with the events of Dallas, the senseless loss of public servants aiming to protect those who protest senseless loss ... it feels all the more important to memorialize, to take stock of death, and to take some small solace in life.

So I dedicate this to the fallen in blue. I dedicate this to the fallen in brown. To put it simply, I dedicate this to The Fallen.

115.
For The Fallen

1.
The rule, my son,
is to keep thy hands up
and for godssake
keep
breathing.

2.
I can’t
breathe.
The world
rocks
my spirit to the
floor.

One of these
mornings—
it won’t be
very
long …

3.
You will look for me—
but I’m already gone.
Maybe I will rise up
from fear.
Maybe I will go down
in fear.

4.
And lord—if I die
let my life be more
than taglines.

Let my legacy
be legacy.

5.
Save the hashtags
#foranotherday.

6.
The year is 1865.
The year is 1955.
The year is 1990.
The year is 2003.
The year is 2015.

7.
The line is “Still breathing.”
The line is “Still trying.”
The line is “Still aching.”
The line is “Still dying.”

8.
“Just because
we are magic—
does not mean
we are not also …”

9.
Reeling—trusting there’s a lifeline
to hold on to.
Caught on the hook
and reeling—
praying for an end
to the tide.

10.
All I have are words.
Buzzing like bees, running like water,

piercing like knives,
heavy as the weight of Atlas.

Where are you, oh mighty ancient,
when the world
rolls heavy and southward
and pins us
to thy mighty spine?

11.
Please don’t tell me
how to save my own life
when the radio sign is Double Oh Seven.

The streets have a license to kill—
and all I have is a black card.

12.
Take a moment—
a moment to breathe deep the last breath of
male, black, sitting on a swing—
impossibly young when two shots
ripped youth at the seams,
rattling, baby breaths. And silence.
In time, child, you, too
can be forgotten, etched memory in
earth beneath which you once dared to run.

13.
What were the magic words
that taught our people to fly?
Where is the spell
that will keep us alive?

14.
I don’t think I can go on—my tongue
too thick with words unspoken,
a pain too deep and heavy to bear
in the space between breath
and the anchor of teeth
that would rather shatter than speak
one more time enough
is enough
is enough
is enough
is enough
is enough
is enough …

15.
And my insides are hollow.
I fill the space of my womb
with the dreams of kings
and the hope
that someday we shall overcome.
What will be the afterbirth
of another tomorrow?

16.
Disparity:
When we fear the night’s darkness, we turn on a light.
See, we shudder the dark, but don’t tell it to die.
We cherish the stars, yes, in spite of the sky.
There’s peace in the night—we don’t tell it to die.

17.
There must be a reason.
There must be a reason?

This reaching ever for a why
is as barren as strange fruit
dangling from the vine for any hand to pluck
but before it hits the ground we ask it—

Why?

18.
Mother Emmanuel—I almost forgot your cries.
The river of pain flowing in yellow lines
from iron posts that hold your upright frame.

Your name
whispers embers,
spinning fragments of God
with us.

You wrap your arms around the living—
you who mad men made a grave.

19.
There is nothing to fear but fear itself.
And what fear can do.

And that fear is the obsidian spider.
And that fear is the hand
that sweeps it down
and stomps it out.

And that fear is the hammer
and the stop
and the bullet
and the blood.

And there is nothing to fear—
but fear, itself,
and what fear can do.

20.
America, oh child of the new world, you kiss
with iron and steel. You never heed
your mother’s warnings.

To look both ways
before you cross that road.

To know
when no
means no.

To kill with kindness—

no, with kindness—

no, with kindness.

21.
Maybe pain won’t conquer.
Maybe we can use our hands
to make the world beautiful again.
Maybe hate won’t win.
Maybe we can make us,
all, beautiful again.

22.
Son—we cut you from the evening sky
and dotted your dreams with stars.
We forget the darkness in you—
we forgive the darkness in you.

We watch you laugh and scream with joyous fists
against your ancient home and wonder
where the world will spin you
—maybe to the grave.

#wesayyourname:

We hold you up in twilighting shadows
praying even the moon rays
don’t pierce you like the forked tongue
of modern justice.

We pray you never fall
blood for blood.

We pray you—
blood for blood.

24.
I hear sirens singing Emily Dickinson—
because I could not stop for Death …
hear the roar of a world I tremble to touch,

to tough, to toast: To walk. To death.

To breathe. To death.
To kneel. To death.
To reach. To death.

I hear sirens singing
Emily Dickinson
—He knew no haste …

24.
Daughter—I carry you in my mouth
with the names of every sister whose name
goes unspoken when the day is done.

I give you all the names there have ever been,
secreting only one for myself,
and that is my own, and that you take with you.

My every breath, your every breath—

and forgive me when I don’t hold back,
clench my jaw to keep you safe,
not statistic,

not sambic with the melody of death
that breathes its own cadence
to the rhythm you dance upon my vocal chords.

I speak you every moment every breath
into being, and leave you
every breath every moment
at death’s door.

25.
Black is a magic
that cannot be qualified.
To hash, to hold,
to rise in the wake of another wake …

One of these mornings—it won’t be very long

Magic spread deep
from a home of darkened hips,
the hyssop of our Mother’s womb.
To hinge, to hope

—you will look for me—

spread wings of corvus
over and over
in dreams we ache to real,

to real,
to peel back this sorcerous skin,
this magic—


and I’ll be gone. 

*****

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