Grandfather

- 1965-

grand·fa·ther.  (noun) 1. the father of one’s father or mother: As in, my father’s father, my grandfather, sharecropped on a farm in Midway, AL. Angry all the time, he fled to Ohio for cleaner work, but the same dirt beat him down through his day. 2. the person who founded or originated something: In 1832, Thomas D. Rice, grandfather of Jim Crow, popularizes the phrase with a song of same name, dancing and singing in blackface, to play a trickster figure, without the wisdom of Anansi, but “nah, uh-uh, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah,” was all black people heard when he sang his song.

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grand·fa·ther.  (verb) [with object] 1. North American informal exempt (someone or something) from a new law or regulation: Landowners, who stole land from indigenous people before the Federal Land Policy and Management Act struck this behavior down in 1976, have been grandfathered in to keep these hallowed grounds. Grandfathered in, their children’s children also can keep the land. Those from whom land was stolen, those who were raided, raped, and run out of town—Greenwood, OK; Eatonville, FL; Wilmington, NC; Vicksburg, MS; etc. —leaving their homes behind, have been grandfathered in to continue looking for a place to feel safe to call home. 2. to permit to continue under a grandfather clause: As in, to pass down privilege, which is grandfathered in the blood of law, passed down, grandfathered in speech to mean passed down to continue but not to offend just to understand, with your grandfather and with mine, passed from one kin to another, no fault of mine, just passed past your grandfather to mine to me, just law, just an idiom of life, you understand; we all started the same and no grandfathering of my grandfather bears down on you, maybe just on your grandfather, son.

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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Skit: Sun Ra Welcomes the Fallen

Jupiter means anger. Sun Ra does not. Sun Ra dances the Cake Walk on Saturn’s pulpy eyes. If you believe that, I’ll tell you another one. The first is 13 and the next is 20. They were not good boys but they were boys. They were boys who died for this thing or that. The next was 16 and the last was 18. One had a cell phone. One had a gun. On earth, a goose opens its chest to a sound. The goose takes the bullet this way.  A sacrifice denied to the wind since there is no such thing as sacrifice anymore having succumbed to fever and the millennium. The bullet is all consequence. Sun Ra refuses red—long and high, low and deep. His arms are long enough to embrace them.

from Citizen, V [Sometimes “I” is supposed to hold what is not there]

Sometimes “I” is supposed to hold what is not there until it is.
Then what comes apart the closer you are to it.

This makes the first person a symbol for something.

The pronoun barely holding the person together.

Someone claimed we should use our skin as wallpaper knowing we couldn’t win.

You said “I” has so much power; it’s insane.

And you would look past me, all gloved up, in a big coat, with fancy fur around the collar, and record a self saying, you should be scared, the first person can’t pull you together.

Shit, you are reading minds, but did you try?

Tried rhyme, tried truth, tried epistolary untruth, tried and tried.

You really did. Everyone understood you to be suffering and still everyone thought you thought you were the sun—never mind our unlikeness, you too have heard the noise in your voice.

Anyway, sit down. Sit here alongside.

Exactly why we survive and can look back with furrowed brow is beyond me.

It is not something to know.

Your ill-spirited, cooked, hell on Main Street, nobody’s here, broken-down, first person could be one of many definitions of being to pass on.

The past is a life sentence, a blunt instrument aimed at tomorrow.

Drag that first person out of the social death of history, then we’re kin.

Kin calling out the past like a foreigner with a newly minted “fuck you.”

Maybe you don’t agree.

Maybe you don’t think so.

Maybe you are right, you don’t really have anything to confess.

Why are you standing?

Listen, you, I was creating a life study out of a monumental first person, a Brahmin first person.

If you need to feel that way—still you are in here and here is nowhere.

Join me down here in nowhere.

Don’t lean against the wallpaper; sit down and pull together.

Yours is a strange dream, a strange reverie.

No, it’s a strange beach; each body is a strange beach, and if you let in the excess emotion you will recall the Atlantic Ocean breaking on our heads.

I Find the Earring that Broke Loose from My Ear the Night a White Woman Told Me the World Would Save Her

I remember:

that earring made me feel so free, so full of beauty—the kind that you might notice. Beauty that could make my shoulders glow. I remember her face, alight with a devious curiosity in the porchlight of the house party—that party in that city which slathered a film over its racism with clean streets and yard signs proclaiming inclusion. That city in that American state which legally excluded Black residents in 1844, which entered the union, big, proud, and white. Does it matter that this woman was not evil, did not send bombs to kill children in a far-off country, did not buy or sell a single slave? Picking up the earring, unwearable until I find another hook on which to hang it from my ear, I remember, again, the words and their cool sting. I’m a white woman, people protect us. Does it matter what I said to invite these words? Does it matter that I did not invite these words? Does it matter that she thought this was a joke, a sign that she was on the “right side,” a way to pass a moment under the porchlight? I’ve been thinking about intention lately, how I'm always asked to consider how good a person is, what they meant versus what they said. I think about the man who called me colored at a hotel in 2019. I think about the n-word out of a white person’s mouth. About erasure. I wonder about the road to hell, which, they say, is paved in these same intentions—good. George Zimmerman intended to protect his sidewalk from Trayvon’s body, invasively alive. George Washington intended to protect America from Britain’s oppression—nevermind those oppressed Black bodies. Yes, I am weaving a rope between George Zimmerman and George Washington. Yes, I am saying it. My country tis of thee, sweet land of white supremacy. When she said it, my face could barely twist into anything but fatigue. I am tired over and over again of being told I am not human enough to matter. The white poet rages against me on Facebook. Maybe he imagines my blood against his ivory tower. Maybe he imagines the many bricks my foremothers and fathers built—LucillePhyllisGwendolynPaulLawrenceLangstonSoniaMayaNikki—tumbling at the flick of his well-educated thumb.  Is even my degree a different color, relegated to the back of a bus, a book? The business of poetry so thick with privilege, so smothered in the rust of its old gates—how can you breathe among all that rot? On the news, the man they call president tells us to go back from where we came. I think of all the lost ones thrown over boats, the ones locked away in cages, the ones here, sitting as American as the day is long and still called wrong. The earring says I once was lost when I find it, tells me it can be repaired. It is an earring of the struggle. It wants that ear it once called home, it wants to touch my brown skin and reflect it in its orbiting gold. I look for my pliers, my jewelry kit. The work is always the thing that makes us whole again.