To my shipmate, Wendy
Some might say this work/life has given us
A warped sense of humor. We cast a glance
At each other and smile. Yes, I was there
With you in Baghdad, dodging mortar rounds
On selected days, and on the tarmac
Overnight in Kuwait City where we
had to have a special sense of humor
To survive war’s absurd insanity.
Time passes. The wounds heal. The scars remain.
We write the future, it does not write us.
We arrange and describe our past to fit
truth’s narrative arc. It doesn’t matter
That we spent nights in the Palace
Fearful of those whose lands we invaded.
poets are mechanics who know this truth
I run a quite unique distillery
And take it with me everywhere I go –
I feed it all the garbage and the trash
From life experience. It processes junk
And outputs poems to read and share with friends
and foes alike. Moonshine for the soul.
One thing about the distillation act:
it does not destroy matter – Newton’s law
Is in effect – what’s not refined from life
At length concentrates to a detritus
That must be channeled outward, overboard.
And if the output pipings cross-connect,
It mixes gunk with truth for ill effect.
It might be time for a shape shift moment.
This kernel of time, wedged between the walls
Of two more standardized realities
Only points us backwards on the path
Of forward growth. You can write your own poem –
This one holds out hope for a revival
And a different direction for our dreams.
Old ways benefited the chosen few.
Their poets and prophets sing of better
Days to come. They have playwrights and Netflix
Producers on the job around the clock,
Promising to protect the status quo.
I can’t say I wish them ill. Their vision
Is a museum object, best preserved, mute.
“Coracao de manteiga,”
The African girls said of me
In my youth: a soft heart,
too soft a heart, goodhearted,
Maybe. Heart of butter.
They keep butter at room
temperature in that country –
A hot knife sizzles through it,
A cold knife is best for spreading.
Butter gives bread a good taste,
And it’s good sprinkled with salt
On popcorn. A heart of stone
Would not be a nice thing
To say to a person.
We keep butter refrigerated here.
Makes it last longer, but hard
And difficult to spread. And it
Absorbs other all the other smells
In the refrigerator.
Reflections on listening to a podcast about Afropessimism
(because the author’s book tour was cancelled)
Can I tell you something? A deep secret?
I am exhausted by your shallowness
And as of this morning at 7AM
I will no longer give a good goddamn
What you think about my talent and skill
As a bureaucrat. What about yours?
Where is your tact? Your sense of fairness?
Your appreciation for the art form?
I have a fairly good, if wicked notion
What you are thinking when you see my face –
My black face that does not apologize
When undermining your hypocrisy.
Fuck all this. I’m going to work TODAY.
Keep six feet away from me. Wash your hands.
To my favorite Turkish librarian, Gozde Torun
A lovely homemade thing
From a far off distant land,
Woven with yarn and lace:
A cushion steadies my coffee cup
A pad where the mouse can rest.
How’d you know it’d be so useful?
A treasured gift of grace –
A token that holds a place –
Folded carefully in the liquor bar drawer
between the shot glasses and candles,
the napkins and cork replacements.
Woven with yarn and lace –
A lovely homemade thing,
From a far off distant land.
Fences – Act Two, Scene Four
In the denouement our classic warrior
(Such is the tragedy that was his life)
Loses all that was once near and dear.
The cherished love of his wife is broken
After her decision to not refuse
The result of his infidelity.
He loses the respect of his son,
So long assumed, compelled by fear,
Never inspired by true affection.
His best friend doesn’t come around
Any more, not even for a Friday drink
That once satisfied a parched thirst.
Finally, abandoned by his own sense
of taste (Yes! A multiple metaphor!),
He is left to swing aimlessly at all
Those fast balls on life’s outside corners.