Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Star Gazer.
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath.
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.
Neighbors saying our face is the same, but I know
Toward my daughter, he lurches like a brother
On the playground. He won’t turn apart from her,
Confounded. I never fought for so much—
My daughter; my son swaggers about her.
They are so small. And I, still, am a young man.
They play. He is not yet incarcerated.
We do not recognize the body
Of Emmett Till. We do not know
The boy’s name nor the sound
Of his mother wailing. We have
Never heard a mother wailing.
We do not know the history
Of this nation in ourselves. We
Do not know the history of our-
Selves on this planet because
We do not have to know what
We believe we own. We believe
We own your bodies but have no
Use for your tears. We destroy
The body that refuses use. We use
Maps we did not draw. We see
A sea so cross it. We see a moon
So land there. We love land so
Long as we can take it. Shhh. We
Can’t take that sound. What is
A mother wailing? We do not
Recognize music until we can
Sell it. We sell what cannot be
Bought. We buy silence. Let us
Help you. How much does it cost
To hold your breath underwater?
Wait. Wait. What are we? What?
What on Earth are we? What?
A poem is a gesture toward home.
It makes dark demands I call my own.
Memory makes demands darker than my own:
My last love drove a burgundy car.
My first love drove a burgundy car.
He was fast and awful, tall as my father.
Steadfast and awful, my tall father
Hit hard as a hailstorm. He’d leave marks.
Light rain hits easy but leaves its own mark
Like the sound of a mother weeping again.
Like the sound of my mother weeping again,
No sound beating ends where it began.
None of the beaten end up how we began.
A poem is a gesture toward home.
They sat on the dresser like anything I put in my pocket before leaving The house. I even saw a few tiny ones Tilted against the window of my living Room, little metal threats with splinters For handles. They leaned like those Teenage boys at the corner who might Not be teenage boys because they ask For dollars in the middle Of the April day and because they knock At 10 a.m. Do I need help lifting some- Thing heavy? Yard work? I wondered If only I saw the hammers. The teenage Boys visiting seemed not to care that They lay on the floor lit by the TV. I’d have covered them up with rugs, With dry towels and linen, but their claw And sledge and ball-peen heads shone In the dark, which is, at least, a view In the dark. And their handles meant My hands, striking surfaces, getting Shelves up, finally. One stayed In my tub, slowing the drain. I found Another propped near the bulb In the refrigerator. Wasn’t I hungry? Why have them there if I could not Use them, if I could not look at my own Reflection in the mirror and take one To the temple and knock myself out?
Dubbed undetectable, I can’t kill
The people you touch, and I can’t
Blur your view
Of the pansies you’ve planted
Outside the window, meaning
I can’t kill the pansies, but I want to.
I want them dying, and I want
To do the killing. I want you
To heed that I’m still here
Just beneath your skin and in
The way anger dwells in a man
Who studies the history of his nation.
If I can’t leave you
Dead, I’ll have
You vexed. Look. Look
Again: show me the color
Of your flowers now.
The water is one thing, and one thing for miles.
The water is one thing, making this bridge
Built over the water another. Walk it
Early, walk it back when the day goes dim, everyone
Rising just to find a way toward rest again.
We work, start on one side of the day
Like a planet’s only sun, our eyes straight
Until the flame sinks. The flame sinks. Thank God
I’m different. I’ve figured and counted. I’m not crossing
To cross back. I’m set
On something vast. It reaches
Long as the sea. I’m more than a conqueror, bigger
Than bravery. I don’t march. I’m the one who leaps.