Redbone, Redbone Have You Heard?

Mahogany L. Browne

Bam got tight eyes 
             Real tight 
He crazy, girl 
             But he fun to be around 
He’s so funny 
             He the life of the party 
He the oldest of them boys over on Alcatraz 
             He love them birds – the pigeons 
That’s what I heard 
             He got a cage in the backyard 
He got a cage on the roof 
             He make the cage out of cardboard & wire 
He scale roofs 
             He think he (can) fly 
I heard he stole the pigeon from Albert’s coop 
             All them boys went looking for Bam 
He just waited for them on the stoop 
             I heard they went looking through his flock 
Heard they ain’t found nothing 
             Heard they ain’t believe him 
I heard his daddy made him fight them one-on-one 
             Everybody know they call him Bam cause of his hands 
Cause his eyes so tight & you never know when he go boom! 
             He always had quick hands 
That’s how he call them birds back home 
             The rough of his hands clapping & singing loud 
That’s how he fought them boys 
             His hands ain’t but a blur 
He slap against the wind & win 
             Them boys ain’t never forgot 
But hell, what they goin’ do—he see everything 
             His eyes so tight you never know what he thinking 
He cracked his knuckles & they jumped on him 
             He clap his hands fast & it sound like a splintered bone 
They say the it sound like firecrackers 
             He say the birds can hear him that way 
He say if he clap loud enough they know to come home 
             He say home with his mouth big & smiling 
But his eyes never change, he’s so handsome 
             They say that’s how he knew where to hide Albert’s pigeon 
Say he hid Albert’s bird behind the broken board 
             His eyes shine like crazy laughter man lightning 
He got hands like his daddy 
             His hands are so quick 
                          —They steal anything worth something 

More by Mahogany L. Browne

Ego-Tripp(ed)

& then the poet became G  D/like
just’a rolling his tongue everywhere
like G O D must’ve
when the earth got birth(ed) & even

           after the fertile soil turned
over on herself/  & the sky--a mix

between "blue&what you looking @?"

(that was sometime afta the 5th day)

when the crumbling grit shook her grin

loose    crossed each arm & said

     “Man? Nah…we good”

Redbone Dances

If you ain’t never watched your parents kiss 
             ain’t neva have them teach you 
‘bout the way lips will       to bend & curve 
against a lover’s affirmation 

If you ain’t never watched the knowing nod 
of sweethearts worn away & soft 
as a speaker box’s blown out hiss 

If you ain’t witnessed the glue 
that connected your mother & father 
—how they fused their single selves 
into the blunt fist of parents 

If you ain’t sure there was a time when 
their eyes held each other like a nexus
breaking the lock to dip dark marbles 
into certain corners of a shot glass 

If you ain’t never known a Saturday night 
slick with shiny promises & clouds 
wrapped wet in a Pendegrass croon 

If you ain’t been taught how 
a man hold you close      so close 
…it look like a crawl 

If you ain’t had the memory 
of your mother & father sliding 
hip to hip         Their feet whisper 
a slow shuffle & shift       Her hand 
on his neck grip the shoulder of 
a man that will pass his daughters 
bad tempers       & hands like bowls

If you ain’t watched a man 
lean into a woman His eyes 
a boat sliding across bronze 
             His hands 
pillared in her auburn hair       Her 
throat              holds     the urge 

to hear how her voice sounds against 
the wind of him 

If your skin can’t fathom the heat 
of something as necessary as this… 

Then you can’t know the hurricane 
of two bodies    how    the bodies
can create the prospect of a sunrise
how that sunrise got a name 
             it sound like: a blues song; 
a woman’s       heart breaking; 
From the record player skipping 
             the sky             almost 

blue 

litany

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me —Nina Simone


today i am a black woman in america
& i am singing a melody ridden lullaby
it sounds like:
              the gentrification of a brooklyn stoop
              the rent raised three times my wages
              the bodega and laundromat burned down on the corner
              the people on the corner
                          each lock & key their chromosomes
                          a note of ash & inquiry on their tongues
 
today i am a black woman in a hopeless state
i will apply for financial aid and food stamps
          with the same mouth i spit poems from
i will ask the angels of a creative god to lessen
          the blows
& i will beg for forgiveness when i curse
          the rising sun

today, i am a black woman in a body of coal
i am always burning and no one knows my name
i am a nameless fury, i am a blues scratched from
the throat of ms. nina—i am always angry
i am always a bumble hive of hello
i love like this too loudly, my neighbors
think i am an unforgiving bitter
            sometimes, i think my neighbors are right
            most times i think my neighbors are nosey

today, i am a cold country, a storm
brewing, a heat wave of a woman wearing
red pumps to the funeral of my ex-lover's

today, i am a woman, a brown and black &
brew woman dreaming of freedom

today, i am a mother, & my country is burning
           and i forget how to flee
from such a flamboyant backdraft
                       —i’m too in awe of how beautiful i look
            on fire