Is not life teeming
Around the head and heart of you,
Weaving eternal mysteries
Seen and unseen, even at your side?
Oh, let them fill your heart, your generous heart,
And, when you lose your being in that bliss,
Give it what name you will-
You joy, love, heart, your God.
For me, I have no name
To give it: feeling’s surely all.
Names are but noise and smoke,
Obscuring heavenly light."
So I’ve gotten used to answering these questions with silence. You know, when we shut up, we force others to reconsider their mistakes."
overcome by the stink of mildewed wash, i have
been three months behind in my rent for thirty years, my
countrymen do not love me. even my lines have
lines. we are getting old in a city where the old are
invisible, i have nothing new to eat and barely five minutes
to use the jane. and less time than that to revisit my
father’s grave, i’ve worn the same underwear for fifteen
of those thirty years and some pieces longer than that
writing friends is a luxury, enemies a necessity, my car
was stripped and stolen months ago and i have no
money with which to repair or replace it. my mentors have
exiled me to the outskirts of nappy literacy, my wallet is
dying of militant brain cancer, my lust for my country
is frigid, the light excludes me and there is
no degree for what is learned in the dark
i am too clumsy to steal big. there is a boogieman in
New York City who conspires against and spreads
rumors about my lost lip. i am so economically crippled
even my begging cup has mold sprouting in its well. my
son has mistaken me for a dragon and his history teachers keep
trying to hose out these flames in my mouth, i do not
attend my high school class reunions because too many of
my classmates died in Vietnam or in the liquor lockers
of America or in those classrooms long ago. there is
a boogiewoman in Oberlin who conspires against me, her
jealousy inspired by my imaginary imaginings
i am trapped in the hold of my greedy
grief and expect to keep circling, i expect my son to escape
and my husband to die during exquisite crisis, the federal
bureau of pajamas is after my hot cross buns. i expect to
awaken from sleep soon. i expect my banana nut bread to
go stale and uneaten, i expect to die poemless and to
be cremated in state ovens, i expect my ashes to be scattered
like pollen, to take wing on the wind like buddhaflies
Attention African-American apparitions hung, burned or drowned before anyone alive was born:
please make a mortifying midnight appearance before the handyman standing on my porch this morning with a beard as wild as Walt Whitman’s.
Except he is the anti-Whitman, this white man With confederate pins littering his denim cap and jacket. (And by “mortify” I mean scare the shit out of him.)
I wish I were as tolerant as Walt Whitman waltzing across the battlefield like a song covering a cry of distress, but I want to be a storm
covering a confederate parade. The handyman’s insistence that there were brigades of black confederates is as oxymoronic as terms like “civil war,” “free slave.” It is the opposite of history.
Goodbye plantations doused in Sherman’s fire and homely lonesome women weeping over blue and gray bodies. Goodbye colored ghosts.
You could have headed north if there was a south to flee. In Louisiana north still begins with Mississippi, as far as I know. East is Alabama, west is Texas,
and here is this fool telling me there were blacks who fought to preserve slavery. Goodbye slavery. Hello black accomplices and accomplished blacks.
Hello Robert E. Lee bobble head doll on the handyman’s dashboard whistling Dixie
across our post racial country. Last night I watched several hours of television and saw no blacks. NASDAQ. NASCAR. Nadda Black.
I wish there were more ghost stories about lynched negroes haunting the mobs that lynched them. Do I believe no one among us was alive between 1861 and 1865?
I do and I don’t. We all have to go somewhere and we are probably always already there.
I know only one ghost story featuring a brother in Carrolton, Alabama, dragged to the center of town in a storm for some crime he didn’t commit.
As he was hung lightening struck a window on the courthouse he’s been haunting ever since.
Attention apparitions: this is a solicitation very much like a prayer. Your presence is requested tonight when this man is polishing his civil war relics and singing “Good Ol’ Rebel Soldier”* to himself.
Hello sliding chairs. Hello vicious whispering shadows. I’m a reasonable man, but I want to be as inexplicable as something hanging a dozen feet in the air.
Within this homely simply sanctuary,
And bring my heart the bitter-sweet of pain
That lives on dewy hope of love-to-be.
Her stillness breathes through every listening sense"
Today I turned twenty-three. It has been a beautiful weekend. My love reaches around all of you. The people in my life form a composite without which I’m nothing. Anticipate hearing everyone’s stories. In the words of Clarice Lispector, “Amen for all of us.”
It is where you retreat to after tired conversations and hollow laughter with the caps lock turned on. It is space: Emotional vacuum to rest the heaviest of hearts, just for a while. It is the conscious disregard of repercussions behind breaking social rules. Like white noise and the blue screen of death emerging, it is a sign for you to go to bed. Perhaps a void was never meant to be filled in the first place.