breathe we

- 1948-

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

tomorrow I leave to El Paso, Texas

see my brother-in-law with a styled shirt

in spite of his cancer below 

then a small dinner in the evening the next day

no one knows except I may be on the road

Mesquite where my father settled in '31

forty-five minutes west then a left you go in

sister Sarita waits for me on Abby Street

after decades in separate families we just met 

now I hear the clock snap I swipe an ant

time to walk my dogs five blocks and back

a different route to soothe the mind

it is the same one but I am hopeful

You & I Belong in This Kitchen

longtime hermano Bob          tells me
one of the monks in brown directs us to the deep sink
made of two sinks the hose & the silver table where all 
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
wait at the entrance for directions the monk gave me
but he is in there & points me to another sink
made of two sinks & a silver table where all 
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
scrub off the rice burned at the bottom 
there it is clinging to the sides of the steel
outside working the hole in the earth
three monks in brown stir the blackish pots boiling
four mouths of mud cakes for the new lunar year
the dragon the people the monastery the mountains
one monk stands staring into the nothing
no thoughts around him 
the other monk descends through the scaly fog two
children angle an exploded tree limb back & forth
so the sparks play with them      to the left 
the meditation hall is curved & faces Escondido 
down below where my father drove his army truck
& pulled our trailer to a stop on Lincoln Road in ‘54
I watered spidered corn & noticed the deportations
little friends gone the land left to ice alone
lunch is served we go to the line the spoons
and the speckled tongs await by the brown rice
white rice eggplant kim chee & a grey shade pot
pour the seaweed soup we go with our tray & sit 
the mud cakes are ribboned in red & gold & green 
there is a way to do this 
it requires listening & seeing &
silence           silence the bell rings
longtime hermano Bob & I      at the parking lot
we leave brown cloth                           brown cloth
naked spoons      naked pots
steam         rises from the sink &      the view
the view with no one           in front or     in back

Five Directions to My House

1. Go back to the grain yellow hills where the broken speak of elegance
2. Walk up to the canvas door, the short bed stretched against the clouds
3. Beneath the earth, an ant writes with the grace of a governor
4. Blow, blow Red Tail Hawk, your hidden sleeve—your desert secrets
5. You are there, almost, without a name, without a body, go now
6. I said five, said five like a guitar says six. 

Related Poems

How We Could Have Lived or Died This Way

Not songs of loyalty alone are these,
But songs of insurrection also,
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over.
             —Walt Whitman

I see the dark-skinned bodies falling in the street as their ancestors fell
before the whip and steel, the last blood pooling, the last breath spitting.
I see the immigrant street vendor flashing his wallet to the cops,
shot so many times there are bullet holes in the soles of his feet.
I see the deaf woodcarver and his pocketknife, crossing the street
in front of a cop who yells, then fires. I see the drug raid, the wrong
door kicked in, the minister's heart seizing up. I see the man hawking
a fistful of cigarettes, the cop’s chokehold that makes his wheezing
lungs stop wheezing forever. I am in the crowd, at the window,
kneeling beside the body left on the asphalt for hours, covered in a sheet.

I see the suicides: the conga player handcuffed for drumming on the subway,
hanged in the jail cell with his hands cuffed behind him; the suspect leaking
blood from his chest in the backseat of the squad card; the 300-pound boy
said to stampede bare-handed into the bullets drilling his forehead.

I see the coroner nodding, the words he types in his report burrowing
into the skin like more bullets. I see the government investigations stacking,
words buzzing on the page, then suffocated as bees suffocate in a jar. I see
the next Black man, fleeing as the fugitive slave once fled the slave-catcher,
shot in the back for a broken tail-light. I see the cop handcuff the corpse.

I see the rebels marching, hands upraised before the riot squads,
faces in bandannas against the tear gas, and I walk beside them unseen.
I see the poets, who will write the songs of insurrection generations unborn
will read or hear a century from now, words that make them wonder
how we could have lived or died this way, how the descendants of slaves
still fled and the descendants of slave-catchers still shot them, how we awoke
every morning without the blood of the dead sweating from every pore.

Untitled [Executions have always been public spectacles]

Executions have always been public spectacles. It is New Year’s 2009 in Austin and we are listening to Jaguares on the speakers. Alexa doesn’t exist yet so we cannot ask her any questions. It is nearly 3 AM, and we run out of champagne. At Fruitvale Station, a man on his way home on a train falls onto the platform, hands cuffed. Witnesses capture the assassination with a grainy video on a cell phone. I am too drunk, too in love, to react when I hear the news. I do not have Twitter to search for the truth. Rancière said looking is not the same as knowing. I watch protests on the television while I sit motionless in the apartment, long after she left me. Are we what he calls the emancipated spectator, in which spectatorship is “not passivity that’s turned into activity” but, instead, “our normal situation”? Police see their god in their batons, map stains and welts on the continents of bodies. To beat a body attempts to own it. And when the body cannot be owned, it must be extinguished.

Theories of Violence

                                          too much of our blood is pleading
            alternate refuge for submerge
                                                                        which is muscle unknit
                        a whole other person without prop

 

                                                most of the body is empty
an unwilling lock
                                                            every doorway capable of closure
                              every bone capable of rupture

 

                                                                       a person is a collocation of strikes
            not of mercies
                        mercies reflected in broken glass
                                                            are by definition wingless

 

a missing wing reveals the anchor
                        two wings loosed from their bark
                                                                                    form a confessional

 

                        most of the body held together by breath
lifeline, from birth to indivisibility 
                                    once shattered, shattered
                                                                                    remade, a pox
                                                what is there to trawl
            reflection: a salvage
                                                                        birds rush to unpiece collapse
                                                buzzard, vulture
                        the dove, surprisingly
with urn-like wings