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August 21st, 2014

I’ve been trying to draw a map this morning-
chart the distance between
Black rage and dead Black bodies.
so far I’ve been outlining our ontology,
tracing round the landmass of
Renisha, Aiyana, Eric, Michael-
the names become too many
the landmass too large.
I’ve been attempting to chart
the scale of this rage,
its dimensions.
i close my eyes to do a field measurement,
feel the acid building in my mouth-
fists tighten-
wonder where this might take me now,
i give into the logic of the juju-
as in – collective memory,
embrace the time machine of my body
and hold counsel with
George Jackson, Nat Turner, Toussaint Louverture-
hands still tightening,
feel like root worker’s hands,
executing their magic now.
i continue to tracing my steps
and the distance between
these bodies and this rage,
closer than i thought it was-
momentarily open my eyes now

find myself in a ghost story
i mean america
no i mean a ghost story.
america is a ghost story
and its tucked just beneath our skin,
boiling in our blood,
no need to map the distance
between this rage and this body,
all we need do is momentarily open our eyes,
embrace the witness in our blood,
hold a stubborn course-
the dead, the living and the unborn
circling round as we pronounce
the circumference, and the texture, and the depth
of the world we are no longer content to live without.

A Name For Our Second Born Son

On August 2nd, 2010, we named our second son Zion.

Named him Zion because when you live in Babylon

it becomes necessary to imagine elsewhere,

and so I imagined it in him.

 

Dreamt of home in my beautiful brown child

re-mapping it from his body like the North Star.

 

Each night I read him James Matthew’s Freedom’s Child-

tell him that we don’t go through back doors-

watch him fall asleep with the breath of god at his lips.

 

Sometimes I admit I wonder if I’m raising him too proud,

knowing his erect back might fall prey

to the wolf or fox among us.

 

Knowing that our names have been stolen from us also.

Our very bodies broken

and disappeared.

 

And I fear that he might suffer from this name-

sense myself tucking it beneath my tongue

in an attempt to shelter him.

 

Shelter him from this colony,

from this cyclical nightmare,

this continued terror

from which there has yet to be post….trauma.

 

I’m too easily angered with him.

There are certain days in which this

has become easier than fighting the real enemy.

 

Or perhaps this is some sick preparation

for the clipping of wings.

The, “don’t get too loud”

“don’t ask too many questions”

that we think might save their life.

 

And yet I know better.

I know that cautioned sons

and daughters are just as

easily fired on-

 

know too many cautious parents

grieving.

 

Elsewhere is far simpler to imagine

when we think we need risk nothing,

and I have sensed a curious danger

in our safety.

 

And so I will tell my son in the morning

that the present is dangerous,

but that only those who risk living there

may build the temple for tomorrow.

January 1st, 2009

sometimes, the meaning of my blackness

is as clear as the body

handcuffed in the Bart Station.

unarmed and subsequently

executed as the audience

surveys the scene.

and in these moments i understand

that nooses may be tied

with more than rope,

as i lay there bleeding with you.

where i first learned to story

i first learned to story

while traveling the universe

of my mother’s womb

parliament and p-funk

somewhere nearby her rondo digs

moving in waves of sound

its algorithms circling

like the earth itself

rotated by turntable

 

sometimes i feel like

my body still re-members

the story of that place

the fragments of that

black cosmos

more material than

the madness

turning in my stomach

 

that madness

a troubled fault line

howling a litany

of trayvons

and marisas

of mcdowells

and oscars

and terrences

 

sometimes at night i meet them

in that cosmos like we’ve all

met there long ago

 

and there we speak of love

and dance

and forge myself

another mouth

to speak a trickster tale

loud enough to wake us

from this dream

 

it seems we’ve been dreaming

so long we are no longer

able to place our bodies

in time

 

this rupture blurring

whip and gun

shark and noose

ship and jail

 

and so we forge a weapon

of our own there

which we use

to wail in registers

of nina and billie holiday

a judgement that refuses

to leave our bodies hanging

from the clothesline

wandering always

 

and as we are elevated

by the whirlwind

of this jury of our peers

jury of jazz and blues

trickster tale and escape route

we rebuild a home

that resembles the cosmos

where i first learned to story.

 

 

Butler the Brave One: A Reflection on What Would Be Her 66th Birthday

In the midst of what would be Octavia Butler’s 66th birthday I wanted to reflect on what she has meant to me over the years.  Undoubtedly without the guidance of this luminary I would be less determined in what I imagine is possible.  Science/Speculative Fiction writer par excellence Butler would find herself fascinated by the world of science fiction but also frustrated by what she saw lacking in it.

 

Science Fiction per the usual left African peoples absent, as if to say, whether explicitly or implicitly, that the future would be one without our presence.  But if the white-male dominated genre would assume our omission or erasure from the future, Butler certainly assumed our centrality to it with our Laurens, our Anyanwus, our Danas.  Octavia helped me to articulate black presence in ways that no other writer has been able to with similar force.

 

She taught me to listen with what she called “radio imagination” as she would layer the details of another world brilliantly, distinct and yet familiar to my own.  I see in Octavia Butler’s work our need to be more creative in not just deconstructing systems of oppression but imagining what our world might look like after them.

 

So many of the conversations I see happening in circles of folks concerned about “justice” takes positions that identify what is wrong without ever arriving at envisioning what we believe is possible.  This is the challenge that I take from Octavia Butler’s work though she leaves us with no easy answers.  I hear in her work an assertion of self-determining will that like Lauren Olamina “intends to survive” though the road is not one that is “ideologically pure” (as if that could even be achieved).  I hear our black prophet urging us to understand the power of our own body to heal and the power of our tongue to reinscribe ourselves as far more than some ancillary and cautionary tale.  Her myths (not used her to identify something untrue) or stories of stories serve as a re-membering a re-naming that empowers me to, with erect back, upload a virus into this crooked system as I simultaneously reimagine the world!  Bravo brave one and may we honor your tradition.  Salute!