Three Poems – Jacqui Germain



How grotesque 
this kind
of kindred. 
How warped
we’ve become 
in search
of community. 
That we recognize family 
only by the scent of trauma, 
by the searing brand 
below the skin. 

In moments of crisis,
the brand becomes 
a series of raised bumps,
a braille our bones know
but most of our tongues do not.
In moments of crisis,
it’s how we speak to each other
when language has deserted us,
has left our teeth to battle
beneath the streetlights alone.

Once, I thought my body
belonged to grief. I thought
my body was built
to be a monument,
to gather all the ghosts up
in my skirt and shelter them
in my chest.
Once, I thought my hands
belonged to the dirt,
would always be blood-soaked
by the parade of crime scenes.
For a while, I could not 
recognize them otherwise.

Look! Look! at the finally
balled fists, the strain
coddled in the brow,
the upheaval in the chest.
Welcome, family, to this gathering
of blood. Come, sit at the grown folks’
table. Don’t mind the children.
The old giants are finishing
that game of dominoes
and then we gonna get
some cards out. Leavin’
for the funeral in about an hour.
But grab some salt fish, some
greens, some pig feet
and join us. Welcome,
family. Welcome, home.


I   wrote   a   poem   once   abo  ut
black   boys    disappearing   right
out    of   the                like   a   shut

                       bullets   right     down
its  throat.     All of   t heir      black

boy   eyes   lik e                    b l a c k
rocks   staring   at    me    right  off 
the   page     like   they     wouldn’t

sink    if    I    dropped    them    all
in   a      r i v e r.    And I wonder if
it’s healthy to keep all  these

ghosts    in   my   pocket.  All their
hands that	                you  can’t
see 		     but		            they push

things around when you
even looking.

We black folks who bend
words, folks  who     celebrate the	 ghosts

that     show   up   in    our   poems
like a		

shout or sometimes	                  a
sweep of wind		that			  carries			you

all the way to a tree branch
or a potter’s field or the 	bottom

           the 		        Atlantic
my 	   g      o          d             it’s                crowded

h 		                                        e	 r  	 e


wouldn’t   believe.  And  I wonder
if  it’s   healthy   to  h a v e     them 
                              all  sitting   in my		

                                                  or my
     or   eating  dinner      r  i  g  h   t
                      next   to    my    elbow

              like  they    always    knew
          t h e y       w o u l d       f i n d 
                a home	                                here.


Months later, West Florissant 
is a swollen jaw of chipped teeth.
Its tongue, still stained with
the taste of blood, licks its lips
slowly, reminds itself of
the borders of its own face.

August scratched open all its throats,
stretched the skin so tight it pulled
out blood from between the crevices,
from the doorway of gums and split lips.
Within hours, the whole country’s fist
was plunged into its messy gut.
A few days and the fingers
flexed, began to poke the warm heat
in its belly. By November,
the hand had retreated but
took two handfuls of blood with it:
	     for testing, for study, for research,
		          for material, for inspection, for relic,
			              for blessing, for art & decoration
                                                  to document, to share, to note its odd color,
                                      to archive, to display on Instagram, to taste,
                           to shine at your friends over coffee, 
              to remember, to remember & to belong.
Left in the hollow was a basket
of scalped air of which the city of St. Louis
hadn’t breathed in so long, it appeared
at first, as tear gas inverted,
some kind of weird ghost
existing only in the moment
between a freshly-launched canister,
and its paralyzing bloom.

About Jacqui Germain

Jacqui Germain is a student, organizer and 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee studying African & African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She enjoys studying the histories of people of color, fighting oppressive political structures and generally having little to no chill. Jacqui has work published in Muzzle Magazine, Word Riot and Anti- and her first poetry chapbook, The Bones, The Salt & The Water, will be released through Button Poetry later this year. View all posts by Jacqui Germain

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