Shared Plight

Bound to whims,
bred solely for
circuses of desire.
To hell with savannahs,
towns like Rosewood.

Domestics or domesticated,
one name or surnamed, creatures
the dominant ones can’t live without
would truly flourish
without such devious love,
golden corrals.

Harnessed. Muzzled.
Stocks and bonds. Chains
and whips held by hand. 
Ota Benga in a Bronx cage,
Saartjie Baartman on display—
funds sent to her village
didn’t make it okay. Harambe,
Tamir, Cecil, Freddie—names
of the hunted, captives
bleed together. The captors
beasts to all but themselves
and their own.

Two endangered beings in a moat
stare into each other's eyes.

Slower than light, mercy
must not survive entry
into our atmosphere, never
reaching those who lose
unbridled lives
long before they die
in this world of zoos
and conquerors who treat
earthlings like aliens.

Mercy Beach

Stony trails of jagged beauty rise
like stretch marks streaking sand-hips.
All the Earth has borne beguiles us
& battered bodies build our acres.

Babes that sleep in hewn rock cradles
learn to bear the hardness coming.
Tough grace forged in tender bones—
may this serve & bless them well.

They grow & break grief into islands
of sun-baked stone submerged in salt
kisses, worn down by the ocean's ardor
relentless as any strong loving.

May they find caresses that abolish pain.
Like Earth, they brandish wounds of gold!
 

Perfect Form

North Charleston, South Carolina, April 4, 2015

Walter Scott must have been a track athlete
before serving his country, having children:

his knees were high, elbows bent
at 90 degrees as his arms pumped
close to his sides, back straight and head up
as each foot landed in front of the other.
Too much majesty in his last strides.

So much depends on instinct, ingrained
legacies and American pastimes.
Relays where everyone on the team wins
remain a dream. Olympic arrogance,
black men chased for sport—
heat after heat
of longstanding, savage races
that always finish the same way.

My guess is Walter Scott ran distances
and sprinted, whatever his life events
required. Years of training and technique
are not forgotten, even at 50. Even after being
tased out of his right mind. Even in peril
the body remembers what it has been
taught, keeping perfect form
during his final dash.


Exploded Stars

	haunted by
wholeness—
	bright debris sibilant
beneath skin tug-of-warring
	with gravity, we
harvest shine
	from the caves of
mouths & crevices
	of eyes incandescent
as we remember
	the most massive
flares among us,
	detonate inside
each other to hold
	tiny supernovae
in our arms. Crushed
	bodies craving fusion
keep us brimming
	with enough energy
to pass on,
	keep us lit & lying
to ourselves about
	the eventual & sudden
ways we black hole—
	it already happened, it’s happening
anyway, to happen soon,
           scattering all that we think
matters so much now
	for another radiant giant to gather
then fling across galaxies
	again—reconstituted
& scorched clean,
           new turmoil begging
from the inside out
           to burn.

Related Poems

Ota Benga at Edenkraal

Maybe it was hog-killing time
     when he arrived in Lynchburg,
       Virginia, several lifetimes behind him,

the old smell of the monkey house
     at the New York Zoological Gardens
       receding, a broken memory left.

Not sure of the paths & turns
     taken, woozy in a swarm of hues,
       he stood in Anne Spencer’s garden
      
surrounding the clapboard house,
   but when she spoke he came back
     to himself. The poet had juba

in her voice, & never called him
     Artiba, Bengal, Autobank, or
       Otto Bingo. Her beds of tiger

lilies, sweet peas, & snapdragons
     disarmed him. Her fine drawl
        summoned rivers, trees, & boats,

in a distant land, & he could hear
     a drum underneath these voices
       near the forest. He never spoke

of the St. Louis World’s Fair
     or the Bronx Zoo. The boys
       crowded around him for stories

about the Congo, & he told them
     about hunting “big, big” elephants,
       & then showed them the secret

of stealing honey from the bees
     with bare hands, how to spear fish
        & snare the brown mourning dove.

One night he sat in the hayloft,
      singing, “I believe I’ll go home.
        Lordy, won’t you help me?”

A hoot owl called to the moon
     hemmed in a blackberry thicket,
       & he bowed to the shine of the gun.