THE NIGHT A COP SHOVED DON LEMON, after Will Evans 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. SANKOFA I wrote a poem once abo ut black boys disappearing right out of the like a shut mouth 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 aren’t 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 of the Atlantic my g o d it’s crowded down h e r e like y o u 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. ON THE CHEMICAL PROPERTIES & USES OF DRIED BLOOD 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.
June 9, 2015