If You Tell It Backward

St Augustine, Fl, 1964 

no black person 
alive today can be 
found working 
at the Hilton. 
JT & Al went back 
& saw it had been 
reconstructed but still 
a graveyard. 
years before, 
the kids are all cuffed 
& dragged 
into the jailhouse, nude 
baring bathing suits, 
for a leap into segregation 
at a swimming 
pool. question: 
what degree 
is the burn 
when acid gets in 
the mouth, 
in the eye or 
on the body? 
the girls move 
from the edge 
where the manager, 
James Brock 
(that's his name) 
pours a bottle 
of muriatic acid 
into the water. 
he starts to lose 
(his temper, 
his mind, his job, 
his man power 
built on savagery). 
anyway, he gets angry, 
because the kids here are 
black & ain’t suppose to be 
in this pool 
escaping, splashing 
the burden of a southern 
June barking on their bodies, 
feverish in their youth, 
sugared in sweet sweat, 
never telling their parents 
they were heading 
to the pool 
for some fun 
to slope the spine. 
i can see now 
JT & ‘nem 
swelling, just sailing, 
on a humid day where 
the summer swelters 
& heat from 
the sun glows 
the skin jet black.

The Electric Slide is Not a Dance, Man!

I wanna privy you to a little secret. Come close now. Good. So, what you need to know is the electric slide is not a dance. It's a transmission code. What I'm trying to tell you is every time I need to leave here, every time I need to get to a place that feels like my mama’s cooking or my brother’s cackle booming from soot, I sound the gathering. I bring out the trumpets and horns whenever I need to shake this crypt dust settling my bones. I turn my stereo up. Just the other day, so-and-so tells me he wants me to teach ‘im the moves. I can’t teach style, can't learn blood to pound to a drum pulse so slick, it glide. So free, it ain’t. Can't teach ‘im, or nobody else who not from where we from what's innate. I mean, man, shit, there is a place I need to get to, a grin I need to spread, a quaking of my foundation ungrounded from laughter. The codes an impenetrable thing; how the slide is sauve, how the count off for the take off is the dip low, the count out. The down swing recollects our plot of land on this earth. Picking a leg high, a knee raised, a turn to the left is the way we know to leave our massacre behind, man. The dance floor is a square padlock you can't crack. Each space we take there is meant for us to occupy. Each brethren is attached to our side, our fronts, our backs. This pattern is a shield against depression or hunger hanging out of someone's blue eyes. Our bodies arrange a constellation in memory of the boy who was slain with no indictment, for the guillotined girl who went forgotten, for the housing stacked like the gut of the ship, the dogs and the waters. The blast off happens insync and our spirits rupture ceilings. We ritual. Sacred. Secret. Originators of a beat cascading. The electric slide is how we leave here, how we ascend. This kinship is how we get to a place named joy, and go home. That's blood, history, man. Ain’t no teaching that.


After I read, the boy with the long, blonde, shaggy ponytail says, “your set was great, like, don’t be offended when I say this but, you remind me of Biggie Smalls.”

if i shouldn’t be offended | why do you say something you believe | has a chance of offending me | offend | meaning to hit | strike | against | when you say offend | do you mean the blackness is the strike | or the fatness is against me


he says this and | i become who he believes i am | my hands thicken | my fingers plump | my long twists shrivel into a short afro | my chin oceans a shadow | my cheeks tumor typhoons | my lips are fat pink | each | word | drags | itself | out | my | mouth | like a guarded hearse | each line | break | squeezes a song | a rap | a dance | beat for this boy tonight


biggie smalls | and i are both geminis | we are both twins | of each other | we both tar | dark | thick | it’s a wonder | how we heave | and heave | and weave | and stand | behind a mic a tall | we all | black and ugly as ever | however we spell well | B | I | G | all rhyme and good time | we both love it when you drive by | and call us | big | poppa | ain’t you ever been popped off | been shot at | been blown up like the world trade | don’t you like your meat center medium | brown skin rift | red nectar running off the curb of the plate


the difference between a fat black nigga rapping and a fat black dyke poeming is in the cadence of the eulogy spit | or | the difference between a fat black nigga rapping and a fat black dyke poeming is in the faith of the women who love to love us back


it is september 2016 | i am on a stage in texas reading poems outdoors | perspiration jogs from my tight curls and finds shelter along my lips | my underarms are a swamp | and still | i do a rap i wrote | and they laugh | despite the heat they sing along | arms reach up | in surrender | i am a secular god | a holy holy | words jetting out like jamboree |and i worry | i look too much like |a concert | like black joy leaping | like a hip hop song in the 80’s | a house party walled in saturation | like summer time | like somebody | everybody | wanna be a part of | like a sweet jam sweatin | blasting | juicy

Twerk Villanelle

For Valentine

my girl positioned for a twerk session-
             knees bent, hands below the thigh, tongue out, head
turned to look at her body’s precession. 

she in tune. breath in. breasts hang. hips freshen. 
            she slow-wine. pulse waistline to a beat bled
for her, un-guilt the knees for the session.

fair saint of vertebrae- backbone blessing,
            her pop- in innate. her pop- out self- bred,
head locked into her holied procession. 

dance is proof she loves herself, no questions-
            no music required, no crowd needed. 
she arched into a gateway, protecting-

this dance is proof she loves me, no guessing. 
            a bronx bedroom, we hip-to-hip threaded. 
she turn to me, tranced by her possessin’. 

she coils herself to, calls forth a legend-
round bodied booty, bounce a praise ballad.
she break hold, turn whole in a twerk session. 
body charmed, spell-bent, toward progressing.