Two Poems




 

These poems appear in the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. 18,  Genius

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¤

 

THE NEXT BLACK NATIONAL ANTHEM

Will naturally begin
with a blues note.
 
Some well-adorned
lovelorn lyric
 
about how
your baby left
 
& all you got
in the divorce
 
was remorse.
& a mortgage.
 
& a somewhat
morbid, though
 
mostly metaphorical,
obsession with
 
the underground.
How it feels to live
 
in such unrelenting emptiness,
unseen, altogether un-correctable
 
by the State’s endless arms.
Just imagine: Ellison’s Prologue
 
set to the most elaborate
Metro Boomin instrumental
 
you can fathom, brass
horns & pulsar cannons
 
firing off in tandem
as Aretha lines a hymn
 
in the footnotes. Twelve &
a half minutes of unchecked,
 
bass-laden braggadocio.
The most imitated,
 
incarcerated human
beings in the history
 
of the world & every nanosecond
of the band’s boundless
 
song belongs to us.
It is ours, the way
 
the word overcome
or The Wiz or Herman
 
Melville is ours. In any corner
store or court of law, any
 
barbershop argument
or hours-long spat
 
over Spades. The Next Black
National Anthem will,
 
by the rule, begin
in blood, & span
 
our ongoing war against
oblivion. Clarify the anguish
 
at the core of our gentleness.
How even that generosity
 
is a kind of weapon.
This music, our blade
 
-d criticism of a country
obsessed with owning
 
everything that shimmers,
or moves with a destination
 
in mind. Even the sky.
Even the darkness
 
behind our eyes
when we dream.
 
¤
 

TOKEN COMES CLEAN

What I desired most was approachlessness,
enough fear to mark a sharp & ardent
 
wall between me & the broader social
sphere, think: semi-invisible
 
force-field, think: aura light
umber like Bruce Leroy.
 
A beauty one might use to keep
a state-sanctioned grave
 
at bay, the distance
this darker body ought
 
to buy but doesn’t.
If evolution were kind,
 
we would all be fireproof
by now. A shame, to be sure: this
 
brutal truth boomeranging back
& forth across America’s oeuvre,
 
History stammering with blood
in its throat, blood on the books, blood
 
on the leaves & what can you right
-fully call living now that the dead
 
have learned to dance so well?
Knife wounds in the global sky,
 
White god on my childhood mind
& you want to talk about repair
 
¤
 

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