When you were mine though not
mine at all permanently, just a body borrowed
without permission, a body interrupted,
interruptive—

                           the sky opened like a secret in a mouth

mouth with a word in it
   
word with an arrowhead in its flank: Love, small

creature it was

                                     crying in the night beneath me

And Now Upon My Head the Crown

1.
             In the first place—I wanted him and said so
when I had only meant to say. His eyes
opened beyond open as if such force would unlock me
to the other side where daylight gave reason
for him to redress.

                                          When he put on his shirt,
after I asked him to keep it off, to keep putting off
the night’s usual end, his face changed beneath
the shirt: surprise to grin, to how even the body
of another’s desire can be a cloak behind which
to change one’s power, to find it.

2.
                                                                 In the first place
he slept, he opened the tight heat of me that had been
the only haven he thought to give a name:

Is-it-mine? Why-you-running? Don’t-run-from-it—as though
through questions doubt would find its way away from me,
as though telling me what to do told me who I was.

Order of Events

First, he taught us to use the dead as shawls
in the viscous winter escorting his arrival.
Next, he taught us to forget the dead
were dead, our dead, and dead because of a wager
we did not consent him to make with the thin-lipped
savior of his own pantomime. Third, he delivered
on promises that blew off the tops of homes
in places whose names he could not pronounce.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown1
forced to fit a quiet country that has no need

for a crown. Where once was honey unhived
competition. The drones meant for war
prepared for war. We dusted our shoulders
of Shadows’ silent reconnaissance, surveilled
as practice for a slaughter we did not consent to.
The royal parade pride’s malady stomped
its sequence through beat drums of human skin
from which emanated a rhythm impossible
to decipher. I too would shake my ass
to the sound of stars falling night-
wise into a pit of myth-bent nomenclature
if the names sounded like home. Under eroding
circumstances, this kingdom could become home.
Under eroding circumstances my gasp
has become home enough, love not
consented to yet detected from beneath
my mindless right hand pressing its devotion
to ritual over my heart, flag above waving heaven
and blood into the smoke-diffused sky I
quake my way through anthems beneath. Rockets
glaring off my breath forced to evidence I belong.
The crown is crooked. We straighten it
with vote-vapid hands. The crown sits too heavy
for the king to carry on his own. When it falls
“O say can you see,” strikes its inquisition.
My knees, summoned to straighten at the hinges
permission most questionably opens from,
strike the earth with a kiss. Could I
kneel my way to revolution?
Would that goad the king to unzip?


King Henry IV, Part Two

Related Poems

Post-Dissertation-Intervention (i.)


I always tell my dancers. You are not defined by your fingertips, or the top of your head, or the 
bottom of your feet. You are defined by you. You are the expanse. You are the infinity. 

—Judith Jameson
 

Elizabeth Alexander in The Black Interior writes about beauty, and how black artists 
resist monstrousness by their own self-definitions.  

I’m interested in this repair, too, but find comfort in the ugly.  I love monsters.
We both consider Brooks.  In the poem, “The Life of Lincoln West,” when Elizabeth 

hones in on two white men describing little, black Lincoln, specie, I zip to the poem’s 
end, to what I read as Lincoln’s release: “it comforts him to be the real thing.” 

I align after June Jordan, whom am I when pinched, patted, and bent?
Get behind her defense of Black English in On Call: How can I be who I am?

We do with what’s given.  I suppose, I may not share viewpoints, but still, 
I connect.  Of prose, Meena Alexander says she uses it to clear the underbrush 

to make space for the poem.  Vacate fields, ropes, a body.  Don’t hate on Elizabeth. 
Do you.  Frame how she pairs Brooks with Lawrence and Bearden.  

To argue, she opens walls, and living rooms.  So, you like death?  Is your project 
Fanon’s?  Is this all a setup?  Fan  – on – it was a jolt in perception, then.

Pieces of this, repeat.  Toni Morrison, where she writes: the remains of what were left
behind to reconstruct the world these remains imply.

Ties to Brooks’s litany of the black body that endures, a stream of violent verbs
to enter, under buzz and rows of halogen: burned, bricked, roped to trees, and bound.

Now, what contexts shift in the stacks that glare before you?  And how do you return,
after, to what seized Brooks at Fisk, standing to face all those Blacks?