Poems from the crucible


Poems from the Crucible, pt. nought – 14 lines for a rainy Thursday morning

“I once studied viruses like this one. They are immensely complex and according to some, not even living.” — My friend Myra, a poet

I woke up to rioting and looting
in Minneapolis, faux apologies
in New York, unsolved, unanswered
questions in Brunswick, GA,
and dementia in Dover, Delaware.
What the actual fuck? Pardon my French.
This virus might not be a living thing
But it is wrecking havoc in all our lives.
Then there are rumors about a veto
And an executive order that’s gonna stir
Some feathers in the head of the beast.
And somebody wrote on Twitter,
“Ain’t no shame in their game.”
I see shame all over the place.


Poems from the Crucible, Pt. 1

I read an African proverb
that a child not embraced
by its village will burn that village down
to feel its warmth.

The mayor lifted the curfew
to appease the rioters – but God
in his wisdom sent a thunderstorm
that made them scurry like cockroaches
when the lights come on.

Another storm is brewing.

If a monument is a lightning rod
and a lightning bolt hits the top
does electricity go into the ground?

Some say abolish the police –
But then who’s Karen gonna call?

Some of us are awake and
Some of us remember you.
So if you wanna tip-toe back here
Don’t come half-stepping – You’d
Better bring your best game.



Poems from the Crucible, Pt. 2

black lives matter
Is technically a tautology:
An assertion that is true
In any possible interpretation.

As such, it needn’t be spoken:
Everybody understands it to be.
But we hear it all over the place
And we see it on posters
& on walls & in windows – even
On a street (but that won’t last too long).

Growing up we used to say
“Black is beautiful – more
An identity than a tautology,
At least mathematically speaking –
More to affirm than to assert –
More cultural than political –
More feel good than mindfuck.

“To be or not to be”
Is a line from Shakespeare,
and “To be rather than to seem”
Is a line from Cicero adopted
By North Carolina as a state motto.
But “I will fuck you up if you
Block my path,” is unambiguous
And requires no interpretation.


a facebook status I posted that i thought was pretty poetic

Slavery in the United States
is not mythological.

It is not the expropriation

of an ancient biblical bedtime story.

Slavery was brutal and inhumane

and it etched itself into the American psyche

in ways we have not even discovered,

much less acknowledged.

Yet, it is a unifying event as it weaves

together into perpetuity

the lives and fortunes of the descendants

of both the formerly enslaved

and the former slave holders.

Didn’t they know this would happen?

“We must all learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” MLK


Poems from the Crucible, Pt. 3

What’s worse?
Kneeling to a false god?
Or wearing kente while kneeling?
Betcha it was fake, knockoff kente.
Betcha it came from China.

And yes, we all know what happens next.
Bad cop gets light or no sentence
(because with all the drugs
they couldn’t figure out conclusively
the actual cause of death).

This event, true to form,
sets off a second round
of riots and looting,
misnamed peaceful protests,
in cities and urban areas
where black folk live and shop,
lowering property values.

And then what?
We’ve seen this film before.
Gentrification when the ashes cool
while the


Instagram photos

For M. Milonaki

I thumbed through your
Instagram photos today,
all the way to the bottom,
and reminded myself
how lucky I am to count
you among my circle of friends.

It almost sounds like stalking
but I assure you it is not.
More like a respectful appreciation,
a casual stroll thru a special gallery.

The poetry will end one day,
like everything else. Memento mori.
But true affection endures forever,
if only just a fading memory.


Poems from the Crucible, Pt. 4

If #CHAZ were black protesters
and not white anarchists,
they might end up like MOVE,
hunted and penned and
bombed and blown to smithereens.
Nothing left but a clean-up job
for highly skilled city janitors.

But Seattle ain’t like Philadelphia.
Not a church in Revelations.
Not the City of Brotherly Love.
It was named for an Indian chief
who predicted, “The white man will
never be alone. Let him be just,
and deal kindly with my people.
For the dead are not powerless.”
An ominous warning, indeed.

And 2020 ain’t 1985. The internet
sends a picture around the world.
Instantaneously a meme is formed,
a virus for the fertile mind. It could be
a trap, this massive sit-in that displaces
others who used to hang out there,
an occupation by a next generation
of settlers, an expression of their
new found manifest destiny. Quicksand.
Chief Seattle still whispers to us.


Poems from the crucible, pt. 5

(Not really a poem. I guess I just think in stanzas these days!)

A not nearly modest enough proposal

Since the whole world is agitated,
What’s stopping a group
of non-partisan patriots
from putting together
a petition to the United Nations
to put the cabash on all these
extrajudicial killings
by renegade policemen
in the US? In the aggregate
it is a human rights violation
and as such, a violation
of international UN norms.

Or am I listening to too many
Malcolm X speeches, too tired
Of being tired of all the crap?
All the marching and rioting
And looting is not gonna stop it.
And we know BLM is only
an appendage of Democratic Party
fundraising and election year
vote generation. Let’s do something
Serious about stopping the madness.

Anybody up for an adult conversation?


Poems from the crucible, pt. 6

Did They Ever Find His Body? An Elegy for Christopher Dorner

I had forgotten about Chris Dorner
Until Dave Chappelle’s mention. I recall
secretly pulling for him, hoping he’d
escape being swiss-cheesed by 400
Of his fellow cops. Did they ever find
his body? I found his manifesto,
living and breathing on the internet.
He left behind a lot for us to read
and digest. Hyperlinks . . . all over the place.
Did they ever find his body? We’ve not
heard from him since. We must assume he died
in that shitstorm, transitioned this life.
Still, the mention of him makes me want to smoke.
The burned body they found was never identified.


Poems from the crucible, pt. 7

Let’s celebrate!

I’ve clearly been reading too much Walt Whitman! (“It’s not where you take it from. It’s where you take it to.”)

Let us celebrate every aspect of our being!
Celebrate our parents and our children, our ancestors on whose shoulders we stand and all the generations yet to come.
Celebrate our gender, whether male or female, whether binary on non-binary.
Celebrate our race, our blackness, our whiteness, our redness, our yellowness, our brownness and everything in betweenness. Celebrate our nationality, our place of origin. Celebrate our migration from there to here.
Celebrate our straightness and our queerness.
Celebrate where we went to school, whether elementary, middle school, high school, or college. Send them a check, big or small, whatever you can afford to let them know you care.
Celebrate the God/Goddess/Deity we serve if we are religious. Celebrate our unbelief if we are atheists or agnostics. Celebrate all our doubts about everything.
Celebrate our friends and our enemies.
Celebrate the “things” we own and our freedom over materialism.
Celebrate any knowledge we have. Celebrate the things we can never fully know.
Celebrate our hopes for the future. Celebrate our fears.
Celebrate being married. Celebrate being single and unencumbered.
Celebrate having children. Celebrate being childless.
Celebrate every aspect of our being.


Eclipse/summer solstice/Juneteenth sonnet

(I lifted some phrases at the start and the finish from Cornell West. He won’t mind. “It’s not where you take it from – but where you take it to.”)

Some say we are in for grim times. They say

We should fortify our souls for the storms

Headed soon this way – put on the armor,

Set our sights on a distant unnamed star.
I am studying the constellations

Like our ancestors used to do. We stand

On their shoulders – holy ground. Through their eyes

We learn how they armed themselves and endured.

An annular eclipse coincided
With summer solstice this year. An omen
Of things to come, a lunar ring of fire
Not visible to seeking western eyes.
I saw it on YouTube. A ring of fire.
Let no man steal your joy, your sense of style.


End of the series