Monday’s Coming and We’re not Okay

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash

Monday’s Coming and We’re not Okay

Imagine a world
where property value,
tax-paid infrastructure,
the rule of law,

justice’s infuriatingly slow
machinations,

tact, decorum,
gold prices and golden manners,

collective peace-of-mind,
tranquility of greater-good,
and the easy flow of
status-quo traffic

and blissful return to
whatever we consider
our communal normal

were all more important

than the unconscionable
completely avoidable
death of your son,
or brother,
or father,
or lover.

Really imagine it though,
and feel free to sub-out
and imagine your daughter,
sister, or mother instead

murdered by the state;

I didn’t recommend it
because I’m no monster.

Now sit with that moment,
that overcooked despair
and rage as your civic institutions
tell you with a dismissive shrug

that his death was unavoidable,
his assailants, servants of the state
are good and normal in completing
the task of snuffing-out his light

and your reaction to his
completely avoidable death
is completely unreasonable and
lives as proof of the sole reason
why guys who look like him

 – and yes, who look like you too –

are routinely slaughtered by the
state-sanctioned violence
in the first place.

He’s never coming back,
his voice forever silenced

and there is no one
with leveraged power
to champion his cause,
to validate your grief,

nowhere to turn
to wring meaning from
your loss.

What would you do?
What is your next move?

Whatever you decide,
best be quick about it.

Monday’s coming,
and you’d better be on time
with a smile on your face
and a song in your heart.

Wouldn’t want to give anyone
within the superstructure
the wrong idea
that you’re angry or resentful

or one of those malcontents
out there
disrupting
the established order.
***

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I borrowed these helpful links from https://tumblr.theblackout.org/

Donate/Boost/Sign:

Mental Health Resources:

  • Ethel’s Club – Black-owned and operated social club offering access to Black therapists and a multitude of creative events for People of Color. 
  • Crisis Text Line – A different approach to crisis intervention, Crisis Text Line offers you help when you text 741-741. You’ll be able to chat with someone who is willing to listen and provide you with additional resources.
  • Shine Text. – Black-owned! Sign up to receive cheerful texts and tips every day. 
  • Therapy For Black Girls – A Black-owned a directory to help you find Black therapists in your area. 

Tips for Organizing/Protesting:

Stay safe. Much love.

Day 7: Iron Rain

Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Iron Rain

Three-hundred, ninety years ago,
as millions of Central and West Africans
traveled involuntarily towards bondage
across the vast Atlantic in irons,
light began its unimaginable journey
of hundreds of trillions of miles
from an undiscovered star-system
where iron vapor condensed,
raining down from a night sky
of a planet twice the size of
our King Jupiter that none yet
on our good earth knew existed,
the faint light finally reaching
our astronomers last month.

News travels fast it seems,
but I guess for some,
not fast enough.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 7: Write a poem based on a news article. I chose the suggested article, “Researchers Discover Faraway Planet Where the Rain is Made of Iron”.

interlocked

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Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

interlocked

this is who we’ve always been

since the very first link
interlocked with the first shackle

since the first othering
stillbirthed dehumanization
clinical rationalizing
reducing lives to fractions

since the first dividing for dividends
simplifying sturdy ones kept
from weakened, diseased stock

since the first grim reapings
of distant kin, then called savages
fearful souls denied empathy
by economy of the soulless

since the first casual cruelties
live bodies tossed overboard
to certain death, preserving assets

since then, we’re now civilized
rulers of the photon, electron
and enlightened electoral process

since then, we’ve shackled technology
harnessed the atom, the fossil,
the solar, and the wind

since then, we’re repeatedly shocked
by recordings of otherings
state-sanctioned slayings of our kin
in our own neighborhoods
as if the chain can’t be seen
winding back through relics
of collective suffering

since then, we’re now stunned into
soul-searching and handwringing
after electing the toxin from our past
to lead us back into the dark dystopia
from which we had never escaped

having never acknowledged
the forging of the first link

none of this is surprising
this is who we’ve always been
***

Blackness, As Meditation

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Image by bella67 from Pixabay

Blackness, As Meditation

What can I tell you about being black?

I honestly haven’t the slightest idea.

Sure, whenever I complete a form
that’s nosey enough to ask,
I check the corresponding square,

but I’m just some random guy
born into a reddish-brown shell, and
there’s no option for human doing his best,
given the tattered incomplete playbook
passed down for generations.

Everything I learned about being black
I learned from others, from momma’s
early-warning games that life’s not fair,
the playing field isn’t level,
and the rules are different for folks
who look and sound like us; that the
difficulty settings are disproportionately

skewed; that there are folks who hate me
at first sight, before I could even begin
to hope to win them over
with a smile and a silly joke.

Being black can be tricky, but

what can I definitively
tell you about being black?

You’re better off asking one of my
blood relatives who are black and proud;

I don’t know if I’m not black enough
or not proud enough, but by all accounts,
and my admission, it’s probably both.

I’m amused by the idea of claiming pride
in something I had no control over;
it’s not like I achieved anything; it’s not
like I’m one of the best blacks like Barack
or Beyoncé or K-Dot; I’m just some dude
who popped out of his momma with
reddish-brown skin, a fear of
creepy-crawlies, and a love of words.

Being black can be bemusing, but what
can I honestly tell you about being black?

To be honest, I don’t think about it
very much these days, not unless
circumstances compel me to.

I’m certainly not doing it right,

just ask anybody with the
privilege of voicing opinion;

I don’t speak the language well enough
for anyone; if I’m confident, I’m too uppity;
if I’m insecure, I need to be saved
from my own ignorance; if I’m silent,
I’m one of the sneaky ones; if I’m loud,
I’m one of the angry ones; if I’m

actually angry, I’m a threat
that needs to be stopped by any means
that will most likely withstand
judicial scrutiny.

Being black can be maddening, but

what can I unequivocally
tell you about being black?

It would seem that I’m unqualified
to say for absolute certain.

My chest rises and falls to its own cadence.
I smile big smiles, laugh belly-laughs, and
dream dreams like any other common human.

Tears well in my eyes, and I weep
openly during sappy love stories,
or when a vigilante is acquitted

by his peers for murdering one of my peers.

(Granted, we’re all peers, but my neglecting
to use first-person singular possessive here
could be perceived as not black enough.
Refer to “being black can be tricky” above.)

I have irrational fears of spiders and zombies,
and a hyper-rational fear of meeting
the wrong policeman in a dark alley
after fitting the description.

You know the description;
it’s always the same description.

Being black can be terrifying.

But what can I fearlessly
tell you about being black?

It can be tricky, bemusing,
maddening, terrifying,
all these things at once,

and sometimes, when I’m alone,
staring at the stars above
on the blackest night,

as starlight takes eons to reach
where blackness has already been,
waiting indifferently for it,

it is an absence of all these things,

for when the cosmos
overpowers my brown eyes
with overwhelming proof
of my own individual insignificance,

that is when the truth speaks to me,
that being black is human,
and is but one of many facets
of our collective humanity.
***

Trigger warning: The video below contains satirical graphic gun violence.

Inspired by dVerse dVerse Poetics: On Shades of Black, hosted by anmol(alias HA). Other writers contributed to the prompt here. I know this one’s in dire need of editing, but I may leave it as is, as it came from an honest thread of thought.

stories, labels, and approvals (Collaboration with trE)

ToniMorrison

National Memorial for Peace and Justice, 2018, Montgomery, Alabama (photo: Michael Delli Carpini, CC BY-NC 2.0)

stories, labels, and approvals (Collaboration with trE)

not everything needs a story
it’s possible to want justice
without being seen as angry
and you’re damned right I’m angry
when our justice is perverted
time and again, and again
you fixate on the anger
spinning a yarn about
the irrational response
of us ungrateful thugs

the ones you want to
linger beneath the soles of your feet
will be the very ones who
you’ll beg to add more days
onto your life.
and when the Maker calls your number,
I will play bailiff,
executing all plans for your demise.
and the difference between you and I
will be that I had nothing
to do with it.

make your presence known in other ways.
show this world that there is
so much more to living than
constantly trying to flaunt your
privileges in my face
OR
belittling me every chance you get.
“when they go low, we go high,”
and it must feel like shit
watching angels scale the skies
while you reach into your pockets
for God-status and pull up lint instead

not everything needs a label
it’s possible to seek solitude
without being tagged as arrogant
I look inward for serenity
I demand airspace to be me
authentically free from the box
you cram to shove me in
I guess I’m arrogant enough
to exist in stout defiance
of your weights and measures

not everything needs approval
it’s possible to just want to breathe
without society constricting airflow
or to share life, laughter with a lover
without enraging a stranger lording
bizarre, anachronistic, dogmatic views
I wish to seek the warmth of the sun
free from fear of fatalistic reprisal
because I fit some unsavory description
or I love in a way that you don’t

and, I’ve watched you, watching me–
you want me to be this robotic
thing intent on following your lead:
no disputes, no disagreements, and
no opinion of my own,
and losing the biggest part of me
is not something I am willing to do.
this frustrates you . . .
it digs into places of your soul
that you aren’t willing to share and
I have fun witnessing your strength
dwindle to mere nothingness
since it feeds off hate.
***

This is a collaboration with my good friend trE. trE is an insightful and gifted writer. I highly recommend that you visit her blog, A Cornered Gurl.

Day 16: Poetry as Visible Steam

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Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Poetry as Visible Steam

That iconic church
catching fire
is not upsetting.

Firebombing
less-iconic black churches
is not upsetting.

Random hate crimes
against minorities
is not upsetting.

A murder of another
based on who they choose to love
is not upsetting.

Having a government leader
with no empathy, no tact,
no impulse control, no shame,
no fundamental grasp of science,
not even the service of
an official proofreader
or spellchecker
is not upsetting.

Passing the tipping-point
of human-aided
catastrophic climate change
with a collective shrug
and a doubling-down
of business-as-usual
is not upsetting.

What is upsetting
is the growing numbness
incinerating our
collective superstructure.

What is upsetting
is realizing that faith in humanity
was firebombed decades
before observation,
like a lobster having no idea
they’re slowly being
boiled alive
until there’s steam.

What is upsetting
is our growing detachment
from the humane.

What is upsetting
is catching yourself wondering
what the victim did to provoke
such violent hatred
before remembering
that all they did was
have the audacity
to exist.

What is upsetting
is that a hilariously-terrifying,
poisonous, treasonous,
wood-rot-brained,
dementia-demigod
is executing the will
of a percentage of people
I call neighbor.

What is upsetting is receiving
such an oppressive influx
of terrible things,
that the nervous system
reflexively shuts down
to protect itself.

What is upsetting is knowing that,
even after adjusting cosmic perspective,
knowing that no one is coming
to save you from yourselves,
compelling you to root for the
sweet, sweet probability of a
random extinction meteor.

What is upsetting
is slowly realizing that
nothing is upsetting anymore.

Not even when the steam is visible.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 16 prompt: “write a poem that uses the form of a list to defamiliarize the mundane.” Again, I took license and adjusted the scale, as I’m running dry on mundane topics and I’m a bit sleep-deprived and grumpy.

Also written for Real Toads’ day 16 prompt: “poetry as an insurgent art”.

Day 4: Fred (“He’s good and dead now”)

Fred (“He’s good and dead now”)

Fred wanted to be a New York Yankee
But a greater calling led him to lead
Honor student; voice for impoverished need
A credible threat to bureaucracy

Uniter of races spanning rainbows
He was drugged and slaughtered by his own state
Two rounds to his skull, not the final blows
His work became bloodied, sharing his fate

We wait for justice as brown bodies pile
Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and more
Respond as technology streams the gore
But know these slayings were here all the while

Slaughter of leaders, of boys, of teachers
In-justice? These are not bugs; they’re features.
***

Shared to NaPoWriMo’s day 4 prompt: write a sad poem that achieves sadness through simplicity.

Also shared to dVerse OLN. Other poets contributed here

Written for all of our innocent brothers and sisters gunned-down by the state, and especially Fred Hampton, human rights activist who was allegedly* assassinated by the Chicago Police Department in partnership with the FBI’s highly successful effort to destabilize the leadership and political power structure of impoverished African-American communities and many other minorities.

The quote “He’s good and dead now” was allegedly* said by the policeman who administered the two fatal shots to Fred Hampton’s head, execution-style.

I prefer escapism, love, loss, and the human condition over the sad realities of the world we all share, but for some reason I was moved to write about this tragedy… this massacre allegedly* sanctioned and administered by the state in 1969. It was my hope to bring perspective to all the recent alleged* murders of black men and minorities by the state captured on video, and all the hand-wringing and outrage at the judicial system’s collective shrugs.

Everyone who are wondering how we could possibly let this happen in the twenty-first century needs to know that it has always been happening for the past 400-plus years. You only get to witness the massacres second-hand through the miracle of modern technology.

(*I added allegedly for legal reasons… but come on now. Y’all know what’s up.)

 

 

Pity the Pitiless

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Photo by Peter Lewis on Unsplash

Pity the Pitiless

You will never know true love
You, who weighs all things by gains
You’re left a wealth bereft of
Substance and joy, your void reigns

You, who weighs all things by gains
Born into meaningless means
Substance and joy, your void reigns
Stranger to spring’s renewed greens

Born into meaningless means
What is sin, you call a win
Stranger to spring’s renewed greens
The want you chase? Frail and thin

What is sin you call a win
You’re left a wealth bereft of
The want you chase; frail and thin
You will never know true love

You’re left a wealth bereft of
Compassion; lost, you taunt fate
You will never know true love
Your flock divides, wielding hate

Compassion lost, you taunt fate
Lies, scapegoats fuel your sad boast
Your flock divides, wielding hate
Both them and you suffer most

Lies, scapegoats fuel your sad boast
But spring sun will have her turn
Both them and you suffer most
You will never feel the burn

But spring sun will have her turn
You will never know true love
You will never feel the burn
You’re left a wealth bereft of

You will never know true love
To hold her hand, knowing God
You’re left a wealth bereft of
True gold, searched by dowsing rod

To hold her hand, knowing God
Surrender to selfless need
True gold, searched by dowsing rod
Not obtained through hate and greed

Surrender to selfless need
Unlocking joy none can buy
Not obtained through hate and greed
Treasures few can quantify

Unlocking joy none can buy
You’re left a wealth bereft of
Treasures few can quantify
You will never know true love

You will never know true love
You’re left a wealth bereft of
***

Written in honor of the peaceful worshippers in New Zealand who had their lives violently ended by a hate-filled man who was enabled by hate groups emboldened by greedy, racist, selfish, corrupt leaders (I’m sure you know the one leader I’m thinking of. I won’t give him the satisfaction of writing his name.)

Shared at dVerse Poetry–a Piece of Written Art, hosted by Victoria C. Slotto. We’re still dabbling with the pantoum form here.

Solemn Solstice

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Photo by Anish Nair on Unsplash

Solemn Solstice

The sun lingers longest today.

The weather-guessers were wrong
about the heat wave.

In fact, there was light precipitation.

Preferring the rain, I am relieved.

I don’t even know why I wrote
“precipitation” instead of “rain”.

I’m no meteorologist.

I guess the unscheduled rainfall
wasn’t up to my lofty standards.

It was a halfhearted rainfall,
followed by an indifferent sunbreak.

Felt more like angel’s spit
than the weeping we’ve earned
for this crapsack existence.

My hemisphere turned
fully into the true glare
of sunlight, and everywhere I turn,
I glare at two shadows
of the Four Noble Truths.

I see only suffering and
man’s indifference to it.

I see children crying in pain,
fear, hunger, and terror;
if they’re lucky, they’ll just receive
the mercy of ignorance
in the form of being ignored,
or perhaps they’ll only languish
as the butt of cruel jokes
they’re mostly ignorant to.

I see indignant adults
viciously targeting them
for exploitation
or other vile indignities.

I see servers and protectors
silencing them permanently
in brass precipitation
because that’s the way
it’s always been and apparently,
that’s the way it needs to be.

The days grow shorter now.

It is the nature of our earth’s tilt
in reference to our position on it
as we continue our
inevitable journey around the sun.

Our share of daylight
will gradually be transferred
to our antipodean brothers and sisters,
in the way it’s always been.

We are powerless to stop
this natural phenomenon.

I am relieved.
***

Untitled

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Photo by Asso Myron on Unsplash

Untitled

A brown empty cup
is how I entered this world
hungry ignorance
unaware of those hating
my random brown existence

Those folks call this stage
alligator bait because
in their eyes, our worth
can only be measured by
how brown skin is devoured

Outgrowing this phase
takes courage, guile, grit, and luck
especially luck
how fortunate was I then
to be born from mom and dad?

And their good fortune
passed forward by their parents
themselves grand fortune
treasures from great grandparents
seeds cherished by ancestors

Shackled in bondage
four-hundred years they languished
with limited means
yet somehow navigating
plucking fate’s string through eras

Living history
is my fate now, no longer
alligator bait
I may not reach those who hate
but how lucky am I now

To be mindful of this gift?
***