A People's Historian

For Howard Zinn

who will come to tell us what we know
that the king’s clothes are soiled with
the history of our blood and sweat

who memorializes us when we have been vanquished
who recounts our moments of resistance, explicates
our struggles, sings of our sacrifices to those
unable to hear our song

who speaks of our triumphs, of how we
altered the course of a raging river of oppression
how we turned our love for each other into a
garrison of righteous rebellion

who shows us even in failure, when we
have been less than large, when our own
prejudices have been turned against us like
stolen weapons

who walks among us, willing to tell the truth
about the monster of lies, an eclipse that casts
a shadow dark enough to cover centuries

what manner of man, of woman, of truth teller
roots around the muck of history, the word covered
in the mud of denial, the mythology of the conquerors

let them be Zinn, let them sing to the people of history
let their song come slowly, on the periphery of canon
of history departments owned by corporate prevaricators

let their song be sung in small circles, furtive meetings
lonely readers, underground and under siege
their song, the seed crushed to earth, and growing
now a tree, with fruit, multiplying truth.

The Haint of Washington

Marion Barry is a black voodoo king, the Diamond City poltergeist
if your right hand itches Marion Barry will come
to your cookout and dance to Chuck Brown’s “Busting Loose”
If your left eye jumps Marion Barry will be cleared of all charges
If your feet get swept with a broom, the sweeper will date
Marion Barry & be pulled over by an unmarked car at
an undisclosed location
if a bird flies into your house Marion Barry will hold your grandmother’s hand until she passes
If a black cat crosses your path, Marion Barry will get
him a job and restore his right to vote
If the dogs in your neighborhood howl for 5 nights in a row
Marion Barry is late night creepin
Say his name like “Mayor Berrrrrrry” and that last lottery number will come out for you
If you bury your infant’s umbilical cord near a tree on Good Hope
Road, Marion Barry will dig it up & help you find temporary shelter
if you name your first born “Marion Barry Taquan Jones”
he will read poetry to your child and give him a ride to school
If you cook blackeyed peas on New Year’s, Marion Barry will be the
first person to cross your doorstep, followed by the FBI
If you watch the video of Marion Barry getting arrested in slow motion
you can see Joseph DiGenova masturbating in the background and
snorting the ashes of the home rule charter

In August Wilson’s unpublished play, Marion Barry is 329 years old
and tells fortunes at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. & Malcolm X
If the Jesus in your Church turns black, Marion Barry will preach the
If you throw salt in the air at the overlook at Our Lady of Perpetual
Help, Marion Barry will help get you healthcare until you can find a job
Marion Barry has a machine that cranks out Emergency hugs and
doubles as a loud speaker during election campaigns

If you say,  “Marion Barry gets on my damn nerves,” 7 times
real fast The City Paper will hire you on the spot,
you will get free Washington Post papers for life
and a lonely Federal Prosecutor will find love
if you say Marion Barry is my man 3 times in a deep voice
3 white people on U street will mysteriously vanish
a girl will trip during her cotillion in Ward 3 and go-go music will cascade from a cloud over 1/3rd of the City
If you get lost on Alabama Avenue, scream Marion Barry and Ray Ray will be your GPS

Marion Barry is a bacon lettuce and tomato sammich at a Nation of Islam rally
Marion Barry is pigfoot stew at a Bar Mitzvah
Marion Barry put DC on the map and then sold the map
Marion Barry didn’t pay his taxes and the price of parking went up
Marion Barry gave you your first job
Marion Barry cost you your last job
Marion Barry is an anti-negro machine
Marion Barry is holding you back
Marion Barry has embarrassed your grandfather for the last time
Marion Barry is a lightning rod for white anger
Marion Barry is a living legend
Marion Barry is a living martyr
Marion Barry knows what’s in mambo sauce
Marion Barry is hooked on Viagra and hubris
Marion Barry is a haint haunting DC politics
Marion Barry is the “this” we need to put an end to
Marion Barry is the last person at your party and he will not go home.