I once saw Jazell Barbie Royale
Do Whitney Houston so well
I got upset with myself for sneaking 
Past the cashier 
After having been patted down. Security frisks you 
For nothing. They don’t believe in trouble. They don’t 
Imagine a gun or a blade, though
Sometimes they make you walk all the way back 
To the car with the weed you didn’t tuck well.
No one’s at fault. That’s how they say it
Where I’m from. Everyone’s got a job. 
I should have paid. Our women
Need to perform for the tips they couldn’t earn
After the state shut down for good reason 
And too late. We lost so many friends. 
My buddy Janir swears 
He still can’t smell his lip balm. Our women need us 
To call them beautiful 
Because they are. They’ve done what they must
To prove it, and how often does any woman get
To hear the truth? Jazell is so pretty.
Whitney Houston is dead. No one wore a mask.
It wasn’t safe, so it wasn’t really free.
If you don’t watch me, I’ll get by you. I’ll take
What I’ve been missing. My mother says 
That’s not how she raised me. I spent 
A year and a half sure she’d die.
The women who lip sync for us could die.
People like to murder them, 
And almost everyone else wonders
If they should be dead. Who got dressed looking 
For safety today? Who got patted down?  My mother 
Says what we do is sin. But all we do 
Is party. Even when I’m broke, I can 
Entertain. You’re going to miss me some day. 
You’re going to forget the words to your favorite song. 
You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.

Copyright © 2021 by Jericho Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The cat releases his urine on
your side of the bed
where it neatly
pools in the indention
you nightly rest your head

How am I to infer this male urine?
A stream of (un)consciousness?
Relief(-lease) to my neuroses?
A psychoanalytical sweet caress?

The cat releases his yearning
on my side of the bed
Westernized tentacles of Thought
Colon(-ized) instinctual urges
s(M)other the Matriarch’s head

My dynamic unconscious reaches
to strangle the cat, my past life
extends a hand to stroke fixations,
relief with each sleek touch

The cat (wise old man) releases his Jungian
approach, vicissitudes flood my bed-
lam. The body politic morphs, treaty lines
blackened with cedar charcoal. Your
Urban Indian complex(ations), fix(you)ations thunder and split

Copyright © 2021 by Esther Belin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.