from “In the After”

a poem in/on progress

1.
March, like the soldier, through the sonic insistence of breath

Breathe in the minute    in the minute    in the moment             breathe            breathe            breathe
Body rest            Body wrest away the rest, then breathe            breathe

Bodies arrested               Body rest            body wrested   body resting in/as recline
Body rest            b
ody wrested    bodies arrested (those who are loved)    body politic is/as de     cline

Body rest in each breath            in each breathe            in breathing
Body rests in each breath we take

Bodies rest in each breath taken by the body politic’s restless decline
Body rest in the sonic soothing of (y)our saying            a tongue tenderly tending

Body wrested from its resting in the sonic insistence of our isness
we move through by moving as an unmarshalled we

2.
But if I love you what we are is of consequence each to the morning,
each to the afternoon, and to the evening’s retire

But if I love you, time is immeasureable and irrelevant. There is no easy
accounting of the train’s arrival, of the ship’s docking

But if I love you, you are not drawn as an easy other, conscripted
in the agonies of marketed and marketing brands

Arrival and its possibility are verdant present joys
Leaving and its possibilities are expansive desert joys

But if I love you, you are not me,
and we dance along our incongruous, broken roadways

But if I love you, I will love many in the multiple that I am and that I love

Preamble

Childless, I am in a house on the ocean-edge
of a national park. Nights, I consider broadcast horrors. This is not
my house. I am a stranger, a newcomer. So often, too,

is the horror. Passes time. Passes time. Past time lights
up my liturgical tendencies, illumines past time, my lovelies.
Here, in this room, in this house, the light is sometimey as always.

Clouds. Wind and all. Pronounced through windows onto woods, onto lawns.
Say “Light casts its tender hieroglyphs on the mundane
and cataclysmic equally,” and fancify a nothing, go straight

for an inaccuracy that distracts and passes time.

And light comes before the hieroglyph, and (as marker)
these hieroglyphs give meager insight into the “nature” of light beyond
some minor perceptions. And what? Shall I ride the alliterative waves

of articulation and silence that fog my mouth and mind? Or just let
the words like particles roll? See where and what this accrual of syllables gets us?
It’s midday, and you are both years before the you to whom this poem

whispers, before the women with whom these syllables conspire. Lullaby, loves,
this ain’t. I have become a woman who screams softly. Maybe an over-abundance
of caution? Of caustic care? Well, I’ve seen the clips and memes, heard the murmurs

and corporate decisions meant to mark-up and mock the nature of you that’s well beyond
easy perception. In past times,

I’ve been medicated out of my self, locked under
an atmospheric feeling, the condition of which would not relent, which could will “will not”

to relent. Wheels of wheeling won’t re-
lent. Absolve your self sunken between
Breath breath breathe                and the toxic dirt.

In Tongues

for Auntie Jeanette

1.
Because you haven’t spoken
in so long, the tongue stumbles and stutters,
sticks to the roof and floor as if the mouth were just
a house in which it could stagger like a body unto itself.

You once loved a man so tall
sometimes you stood on a chair to kiss him.

2.
What to say when one says,
“You’re sooo musical,” takes your stuttering for scatting,
takes your stagger for strutting,
takes your try and tried again for willful/playful deviation?

It makes you wanna not holla
silence to miss perception’s face.

3.
It ain’t even morning or early,
though the sun-up says “day,” and you been
staggering lange Zeit gegen a certain
breathless stillness that we can’t but call death.

Though stillness suggests a possibility
of less than dead, of move, of still be.

4.
How that one calling your tryin’
music, calling you sayin’ entertaining, thinks
there’s no then that we, (who den dat we?), remember/
trace in our permutations of say?

What mastadonic presumptions precede and
follow each word, each be, each bitter being?

5.
These yawns into which we enter as into a harbor—
Come. Go. Don’t. says the vocal oceans which usher
each us, so unlike any ship steered or steering into.
A habit of place and placing a body.

Which choruses of limbs and wanting, of limp
linger in each syllabic foot tapping its chronic codes?

Related Poems

Heartbeats

Work out. Ten laps.
Chin ups. Look good.

Steam room. Dress warm.
Call home. Fresh air.

Eat right. Rest well.
Sweetheart. Safe sex.

Sore throat. Long flu.
Hard nodes. Beware.

Test blood. Count cells.
Reds thin. Whites low.

Dress warm. Eat well.
Short breath. Fatigue.

Night sweats. Dry cough.
Loose stools. Weight loss.

Get mad. Fight back.
Call home. Rest well.

Don’t cry. Take charge.
No sex. Eat right.

Call home. Talk slow.
Chin up. No air.

Arms wide. Nodes hard.
Cough dry. Hold on.

Mouth wide. Drink this.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

No air. Breathe in.
Breathe in. No air.

Black out. White rooms.
Head hot. Feet cold.

No work. Eat right.
CAT scan. Chin up.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
No air. No air.

Thin blood. Sore lungs.
Mouth dry. Mind gone.

Six months? Three weeks?
Can’t eat. No air.

Today? Tonight?
It waits. For me.

Sweet heart. Don’t stop.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

I Can’t Breathe

I suppose I should place them under separate files
Both died from different circumstances kind of, one from HIV AIDS and possibly not having
taken his medicines
the other from COVID-19 coupled with
complications from an underlying HIV status
In each case their deaths may have been preventable if one had taken his meds and the
hospital thought to treat the other
instead of sending him home saying, He wasn’t sick enough
he died a few days later
They were both mountains of men
dark black beautiful gay men
both more than six feet tall fierce and way ahead of their time
One’s drag persona was Wonder Woman and the other started a black fashion magazine
He also liked poetry
They both knew each other from the same club scene we all grew up in
When I was working the door at a club one frequented
He would always say to me haven’t they figured out you’re a star yet
And years ago bartending with the other when I complained about certain people and
treatment he said sounds like it’s time for you to clean house
Both I know were proud of me the poet star stayed true to my roots
I guess what stands out to me is that they both were
gay black mountains of men
Cut down
Felled too early
And it makes me think the biggest and blackest are almost always more vulnerable
My white friend speculates why the doctors sent one home
If he had enough antibodies
Did they not know his HIV status
She approaches it rationally
removed from race as if there were any rationale for sending him home
Still she credits the doctors for thinking it through
But I speculate they saw a big black man before them
Maybe they couldn’t imagine him weak
Maybe because of his size color class they imagined him strong
said he’s okay
Which happened to me so many times
Once when I’d been hospitalized at the same time as a white girl
she had pig-tails
we had the same thing but I saw how tenderly they treated her
Or knowing so many times in the medical system I would never have been treated so terribly if I
had had a man with me
Or if I were white and entitled enough to sue
Both deaths could have been prevented both were almost first to fall in this season of death
But it reminds me of what I said after Eric Garner a large black man was strangled to death over
some cigarettes
Six cops took him down
His famous lines were I can’t breathe
so if we are always the threat
To whom or where do we turn for protection?

breathe we

breathe for George Floyd we
 

breathe for compassion we

do not know what that is we
 

another black man holy we

gone now George Floyd we

Ahmaud running street endless we

America scream & love we
 

do not know what love is we

breathe George Floyd flames we
 

next to you on a sp halt cho  ke we

knee Am Am
 

e      ri                   c        a w e

Breathe. As in. (shadow)

Breathe
. As in what if
the shadow is gold
en? Breathe. As in
hale assuming
exhale. Imagine
that.      As in first
person singular. Homonym
:eye. As in subject. As
in centeroftheworld as in
mundane. The opposite of spectacle
spectacular. This is just us
breathing. Imagine
normalized respite
gold in shadows
. You have the
right to breathe and remain
. Imagine
that
.