Good Grief

after the 2021 Texas Winter Storm

I’ll admit that I’ve never thought about frostbite.

Trauma of the blood, a thing to be avoided when heat goes out for an entire state.

I don’t know where to place this grief, this sweltering state freezing, politicians breezing over to a country that doesn’t have tissue choked out by its winter yet.

The sky can only do what it does.

The American government can only do what systems driven by green paper, violence & ache can do.

The trees bloom over dead bodies, missing.

The sound of hands rubbing, engines purring, hopes that gas lights or chafing or the rapture won’t come first may quiver in my blood forever.

I am Black but maybe I am doomed.

Memory flashes like a computer screen; I see the zoom link expand. Colleagues process whatever failure number of a thousand this was this year and I can only remember white.

Six inches deep, sunken into my boots all over.

The timeline of friends stranded, impending doom of electricity shutting off, water pressure slipping into nothing every hour, pipes bursting on top of all that white.

I haven’t recovered from seeing things that too-closely resemble holes in a graveyard.  

I haven’t forgotten the project is due in 2 weeks.

My therapist says take it easy as if capitalism is listening. As if the body will ever forget what it is given.

I am Black which is history, personified.

I used to listen to Pilot Jones fondly. With all this frostbite on my fingers, I’m not sure if I can type.

I cannot finish another sentence on unity.

What is unified about ERCOT letting us freeze? Knowing how to fix the problem & not doing it; how does that form a Kumbaya circle?

If I made art about every pain I’ve felt unjustly, I would be swimming in accolades for great American books.

I would take back every word I’ve written if it ended this.

America is the worst group project.

I’m writing a great American poem about suffering.

How much is going without food that isn’t canned for a week worth?

The absence of snow feels like betrayal. My memory mixes with American delusion. 

I can’t believe half the things that I’ve been through.

Ice cold, baby, I told you; Im ice cold.

Who said it first, Frank Ocean or Christopher Columbus?

I’ve never been taught how to adequately mourn the nights spent bitching about a brisk wind; the night we almost got stranded trying to get to J before the cold swallowed them whole.

I want to give everything I’ve been handed a good cry. Red skin & chapped lips deserve it.  

Good grief, what has Texas done to me.

An article features a person walking past tents near I-35. 

I can’t cry about the body but I feel it.

A highway splits a nation from its promise to be one.

Everything feels blurry and the palm trees have died.

Everything transported here withers away eventually.

6 months later and I haven’t been able to shovel out my sadness.

A news report said that it’s safe to go back to work. & I listen, because what else can you do in 6 inches of white.

The snow melted and I still feel frostbitten.

There are no heroes in a freeze-frame changing nothing.

I pose begrudgingly. Say cheese & then write this.

I’m not a survivor; just still breathing.

I remember grief, loves grand finale.

What else do we have if not the memory of life before this?

I cannot tell you how many lives I’ve lost to mourning, but I can tell you that the sky does what it does.

Let’s go for a walk & touch the trees that survived like us.

Let’s write a future more joyful & less inevitable in segments of leaves.

Anything we dream will be better than this.

Elon Musk is Moving to Austin

& every grandpa’s truck is the truck of my dreams. Forest green or yellow thunder;

chromed out blue or rusty carmine. I love all the sun-dyed variations of red, really.

I love the squeaky door handles swinging open at the twin liquor store on the old

side of congress. By “old” I mean it hasn’t been gentrified yet. I want every grandpa

truck to stay owned by a grandpa & my grandpa to always have gap-toothed yellow

teeth. The silver caps shine brighter the longer you preserve them, I think. The trunk’s

dusty leaves—older than tech booms bringing a tampering white dream to all

thriving populous cities. I want Congress to never be called SoCo again. And it’ll never

be by all those truck-driving abuelo’s tipping their cowboy hats to me on Friday eves.

They are my realm of possibility. When I grow up I want to be all their leaky motors

& leather seats, combined. Tonight I’ll be sure to let the cranky grandpa in first. Maybe

we can link up after sip-shopping & yell at some clouds or I can listen to his audible

history of what Austin used to be. We’ll never be the tech utopia they want us to be.

Not while men can still grow up to mirror their cars, not while Texas lights gleam on

& grandpa’s glow despite their cracking paint jobs, effortlessly.

black hair

burgeons through my pores
bringing its small, itchy sores. Cuts
through my hands and stubbles up
enough to be visible when fitted
skin-tight to a mirror. One day,
I was standing so close you could
see each pore and I’d pluck until
every red-and-Black follicle knew
no hair was welcomed here.
Now they sprout and I’m foolish
with joy at every conjuring of
a bush. Every prick rubbing
their way through my patchy
happy face. Who will teach me
how to shave? YouTube, I guess
til my bois get this far. I wonder
if every beard grows like this: into
a nest made with oil and hope. Into
a boi made with oil after they threw
away the rope. I guess I’ll put
that in the search bar too: did it feel
good? To stop running from yourself?

Bare Minimum or: To-Do List for White America

Clean up after yourself. Pick up

that book chile, you still got

a good back. Seek therapy.

Don’t kill the creative in you.

Don’t kill Black people. Get a job —

one that doesn’t make you

the dictator. Take back 400 years

of overcontested leadership. Give

thanks to the futures you’ve stolen.

Give back what your people call

inheritance. Wash your hands; cut

the grass; don’t kill Asian women.

Don’t have what you call bad days.

Don’t think that — due to fear planted

in the roots of your kin — you can’t get rid

of yourself today. Get a job —

one that doesn’t require blood from me.

I’m low on iron & desire to tell you

once again. Quit playing. There’s a puddle

of blood you’ve shoved into a corner.

There’s a mop and my people

wringed into a bucket of waste. I’ll wait.

Related Poems

the earth is a living thing

is a black shambling bear
ruffling its wild back and tossing
mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling 
the burying ground circling the bones
picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water
is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing 
is a favorite child
of the universe
feel her rolling her hand
in its kinky hair
feel her brushing it clean

I Was Called Back

I was called back into the dark during an early morning flyover     onto a rusty mauve plain     fields overrun with a low river of tar     the smell of burning grass carried from the east     flowing upward through neon bright signs of pharmaceuticals and snow     a bronze liquid of promise        a fleeting and always-ending sleep     the remains of chipped concrete eating away the foundations of every building     tables of salt rising over the whole country     I was called onto a platform in the north     a miles- wide outpost     where I sat     waiting to hear what new harm my sisters had conjured     they reached me by phone     through a star or their dreams     a breaking request from our father that had traveled through a long and oily channel     I could understand its beauty     the rainbow-thick shimmer of pigment and poison     a seeping fissure of love     before  the apocalypse     the ruin     or just the overhanging clouds     yesterday a maker of brine and sauerkraut told me the world would end by corrosion and decay     I’m not so sure     I hear the  eruption between refusal and insistence     or maybe just a truck   driving through 

I Don’t Know What Will Kill Us First: The Race War or What We’ve Done to the Earth

so I count my hopes: the bumblebees
are making a comeback, one snug tight
in a purple flower I passed to get to you;

your favorite color is purple but Prince’s
was orange & we both find this hard to believe;
today the park is green, we take grass for granted

the leaves chuckle around us; behind
your head a butterfly rests on a tree; it’s been
there our whole conversation; by my old apartment

was a butterfly sanctuary where I would read
& two little girls would sit next to me; you caught
a butterfly once but didn’t know what to feed it

so you trapped it in a jar & gave it to a girl
you liked. I asked if it died. you say you like
to think it lived a long life. yes, it lived a long life.