Afterward but not Afterword

- 1965-
State of Florida v. Patrick Gene Scarborough, David Erwin Beagles, Ollie Odell Stoutamire, William Ted Collinsworth, 1959, case #3445.

Later I lower my head to my father’s chest,
the hollow where I hear his heart stop, if stop
meant speed to a stop, if hearts could gasp like a 
a mouth when events stun the heart to a stop
for a moment. His eyes fill with anger
then, collecting himself, he rises up to slump
his shoulders back down. The fists. The eyes.
Nothing can raise up, nothing feels essential,
a black body raising up in the south and all…
To a life starting here, ethereal, yet flesh, and all?
And even if you could, what all good would it do?
The damage and all. Black birds flock, 
dulcet yet mourning, an uproar of need,
a cry of black but blue is not the sky
in which they gender. My God, if life is not pain, 
no birth brought me into this world,
or could life begin here where it ends—
no shelter, no comfort, no ride home—
and must I go on, saying more? Pointing
them out in a court of men? Didn’t
the trees already finger the culprits? Creatures
make a way where there is no way. That way
after I lean into what’s left of me—and must I
(yes, you must) explain, over and over,
how my blood came to rest here—my body,
now labeled evidence, sows what I have yet to say.

More by A. Van Jordan

Einstein Defining Special Relativity

INSERT SHOT: Einstein’s notebook 1905—DAY 1: a theory that is based on two postulates (a) that the speed of light in all inertial frames is constant, independent of the source or observer. As in, the speed of light emitted from the truth is the same as that of a lie coming from the lamp of a face aglow with trust, and (b) the laws of physics are not changed in all inertial systems, which leads to the equivalence of mass and energy and of change in mass, dimension, and time; with increased velocity, space is compressed in the direction of the motion and time slows down. As when I look at Mileva, it’s as if I’ve been in a space ship traveling as close to the speed of light as possible, and when I return, years later, I’m younger than when I began the journey, but she’s grown older, less patient. Even a small amount of mass can be converted into enormous amounts of energy: I’ll whisper her name in her ear, and the blood flows like a mallet running across vibes. But another woman shoots me a flirting glance, and what was inseparable is now cleaved in two.

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Related Poems

Poem about My Rights

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t 
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want 
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if the guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him if after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was 
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was this man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that 
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
words
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers 
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems
turn out to be
me
I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
my self
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it’s about walking out at night
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic
and indisputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
be-
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic
the wrong sartorial I
I have been the meaning of rape
I have been the problem everyone seeks to
eliminate by forced
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/
but let this be unmistakable this poem
is not consent I do not consent
to my mother to my father to the teachers to
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in 
cars
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life

Nothingness

I don’t want to say anything. What is it to be saying? Force speech, rape speech. I have no subjectivity or light subjectivity. Speaking, defunct. Land mass floats. And the forests have been felled. And the antlers, snapped. Morphed lips, already sewn. Most of us are keen to mouth the word, “beast.” Everyone is talking talking talking like dentures, clack clack, but nothing is really said. Or so much chatter static. I am not saying anything either, am waiting and breathing. My body is speaking. Expressing the thingness of the thing. It chats at me, motoring. In the taxi, a tree shaped purple fragrance floats across face.

--

To be a red 
scratch or 
red scotch, 
depending on 
your liking,
calculation 
of the sublime, or 
the sublime itself—

Memory fixed— 
—and 
then splatter.
My mother in 
her pink kitchen 
washes what 
the garden 
and its grey 
chemicals produced. 
Outside, the gate 
ajar, the dog 
run wild-ing. A thing 
called girl splay
or wheat heart. 
We could draw 
a chalk line there. 

This is not conceptual. This is a poem. You are a poem. I am. 

The hesitancy.
The undoingness. 

More secrets: humiliation as release. 

The men all say “I want to stretch you out,” feel themselves big in this small corner of the world. How chivalrous, the ache of any obvious sliding down. What would the poem be without wings to block out the light?

Forced Entry

He broke into me
stole something
a brazen thief
never charged with forced entry
because "Please don't" didn't lead
to blue black marks on the lock
and no one sees the bruise prints
the scratch marks on my spirit
these don't make police reports
the dignity missing from my step
doesn't qualify as physical evidence
I shake when I see him
only my homegirls seem to notice
their golden light, protective around me
his boys' mantra is "lying bitch"
they mutter it with sharp machete eyes,
occassionally someone rouses himself to say it-
"Lying bitch"
the words weigh down the wings of airborn birds
and for the first time
I see these men not as men
but as terrorists in training
camaflouged bombers on
the ground floor of truth
taking dynamite to it's foundation.
I see myself as a prisoner of war
an exile
a survivor
I wish this wasn't my story
but it is
a million times over
and just when I think it has gone away
it reappears at my doorstep
in another womans face
or on the ten o'clock news
and although I have loved men since
maybe another sister can't
so this is our story
and it will be ours
until we don't have to claim it anymore
until women from Brooklyn to Oakland to South Africa
can sit back in amazement and say
"I can't believe such things ever occured,"
until the word "rape"
can be wiped out from vocabularies
removed from the dictionary
stamped out of our memories
until then, this will be our story
and wounded eyes will tell it
even when we don't