She leads me to tongues

Speak easy    

Abolition   blow  up  gun         lisping   hissing   puckering   at the sunday   blues   straight  to monday     blues      

    Loaf  of    red    lipstick      gathering   our   speeches      of  bloodshed    of      doomed  ledge    of    risk     left   

to      pout   in    the  meddling       hesitation          and    then        the    soul        trapped   in     one    family      for     generations        decides         against         its       arrow going       I   still    have      the     note    he     passed  me    

etched        into      my       skin          soft      dent    of      window       eyes      that     jump   like    wind    eyes   that  isolate        the    moment      for     an    eternity       yanking      you     into     it      begging     you     back   to  life     
 

Returning    now   to  how it feels when you’re a kid and the pimps come back to the neighborhood in furs and cadillacs     acting    out our enemies’ fantasies   

Motown Philly Back Again

We're all pagans and shamans and clap your hands now we won't stop the beat

We believe in divine healing and we hate to see that evening sun go down

We know when the sight of our women dressed in white each ritual night, is touching, hypnotizes

The animals blush and split for us as revival, as revealed to themselves

These are triumphant women.

Even Sister Fame hiding out in the alley turning tricks and singing verses from the undid scripture, is touching

Thank you jesus, thank you jesus, that you jesus, baby, is that you, she mutters up high between rocks and lacehis eagerness— it was all night long

Sometimes he'd interrupt a recording session to tell us about his early Motown days or expand on his views of Heaven and Hell

One time he was saying how important it was to love one's father.

Do you love yours? I asked him

Why don't you tell him

Why don't you tell your father, he said

I will if you do

You go first


About this poem:
"'Motown Philly Back Again' is a meditation on some of the myths and legends that pervade the recording industry. It includes some catachresis between Marvin Gaye and myself that helps me explore some nuances of paternity as I've experienced it within the context of black culture. The many hyperlinks embedded in the text explicate more of the associative registers of the poem, which is part of a larger series of meditations on crossings between rituals of worship/devotion, rituals of violence, and rituals of entertainment as they converge and diverge in the role of the arts in the lives of black Americans and also all Americans. That series is called 'Great Day in the Morning' and will be available as a chapbook this year."

Harmony Holiday

Microwave Popcorn

I think a lot of y’all have just been watching Dr. King get beat
    up and, ah

                      vacillating opportunists straining for a note of
    militancy     and ah   

Hold your great buildings on my tiny wing      or     in my tiny  
    palm      same thing different sling   

and then they shot him   and     uh               left him on the front
    lawn  of everyone’s    vulgar  delirium  
for          having been chosen       walking home that night
     that’ll show you like    candy     and   love  
god     openly          reverse   order         

A bird gets along beautifully in the air, but once she is on the
    ground that special equipment hampers her a great deal.   


         And               Thereby home never gets to be a jaded
             resting place.
 

B-Sides from my Idol Tryouts

1. Just like in true life
The wild geese approaching treason, now federated along one keep
May we find a rafter

 

 

2. I like the way you don't
go into the cabin
That is how I like it: methodically, mythically, my accidents are protests,
are my only protests, they are never accidents

 

 

3. We even misprism the past
Turn our waltz on the face of another
To turn on
To turn against
Opposite statements that express the same, sometimes, or binary like the lines:
Man is something to be overcome, what you you done to overcome him
or
Just how far can you push the heroic guy to being evil
and how far can you push the villain to being somebody you can
care about
or
Floodtide beneath you, I see you face to face

 

 

4. Check out your mind
Masquerading with dawn
It was invented by the press
Press harder (press not push)
The bell, the liquor, the deck of card crisp hardships surfacing as clovers and nights at his club getting low, if they ask you to sell them, don't
On the Corner, (side 1) try
Thinking of one thing and doing another

 

 

4. Repeat: But we are
Only getting rich in order to repeat these trips

 

 

5. But we are getting rich in order...
So neither group can be understood except in relation to the other
as in/
as out/
as excuses for true stories—

It's just that his passion costumes his thoughts,
not just his past
Not just a fat vacation Sunday
Also an emaciated smoke break
Also broken into images of smoke,

the way smoke moves
From tobacco
or factory chimney
your mouth
your vandalised memory
in order
to get rich
Someone has to work there and believe it into disappearance

 

 

6. Wealth: I am farmers/I am a thief.
Fame money/anonymous fame/factory farmed/black thief/by black I mean/
Buy black I mean
We are what sells
Thinking to ourselves:
Something in me wishes this wasn't my poem—
That emotion is glory or—
still?

 

 

7. Compliments: The only one I want is (the) speechless/
ness, (he) nestled in me bold and hip like a broken risk

 

 

8. Peaty Greene, Casius X (who's that) Jack Johnson, Blind Tom Wiggans, Bama the Village Poet, Gregor Samson, Fred Hampton, Josephine Baker, Lester Young, will you give up your death for me? Teach me why I am a destiny

 

 

9. If you think about me, and you ain't gonna do no revolutionary act, forget about me, I don't want myself on your mind

 

 

10. Anyway, innocence. Man is something to be overcome, what have you done to overcome him. Digitally pacing the stage as his future and his past, a full body holograph of Tupac Shakur. But then when he got shot no bitches came out, no music, nothin'. Just some critics' unphased mumblings: man you were marvelous but your co-star the gun was a bit over the top

 

 

11. Rehearsal for God Bless the Child.
I wanna get it right
Let's start with 'rich relations'
Green sides of goldsides
I immediately had to get a drum instructor a trumpet teacher and a sword twirling coach. Get your silence together. Hope is final

 

 

12. Super soul/supra soul/hip hop's egoless self-agrandisement is the next
toll/phase on the free/way, high/way, autoroute, or space between proof and privacy in loose weather

 

 

13.The man you love is walking home in Hollywood. 5 or 6 police cars come up, about 8 cops around. You fit the description, you always fit the description, you fit the description of a robbery in the area. A black guy, wearing jeans, 5'8," the whole thing

 

 

14. He had dreams of really hitting it big with his stereo store
He'd play samples of Caetano Veloso singing 9 out of ten movie stars make me cry, I'm alive!, or— One thing leads to another, but the kid is not my son or god bless the child that's got his own

Related Poems

wishing

razor blades did not

slash rainbows

hands did not

steal light from the dawn

prayers spoken in tongues did not

dissolve into silk pocket linings

air could be bartered

for fire

war could reinvent itself

as a prayer of silence

Errancities

for Edouard Glissant

1.
the mind wanders as a line of poetry taking flight meanders
in the way birds spreading wings lift into space knowing
skies are full of surprises like errançities encountering restless
journeys as in the edgy solos of miles davis or jimi hendrix

listen to night-song of sea waves crashing in foaming with voices
carrying liquid histories splashing there on rock or sandy shores
after traveling across time space & distance it resembles a keening
language of music heard at the tip of a sharp blade of steel

cutting through air singing as it slices a head clean from its neck
& you watch it drop heavy as a rock landing on earth & rolling
like a bowling ball the head leaving a snaking trail of blood reminding
our brains of errançities wandering through our lives every day

as metaphors for restless movement bring sudden change
surprise in the way you hear errançities of double meaning
layered in music springing from secret memories as echoes
resounding through sea & blue space is what our ears know

& remember hearing voices speaking in tongues carrying history
blooming as iridescent colors of flowers multifarious as rainbows
arching across skies multilingual as joy or sorrow evoked inside
our own lives when poetic errançities know their own forms

 

2.
what is history but constant recitations of flawed people pushed
over edges of boundaries of morality pursuing wars pillage
enslavement of spirits is what most nations do posing as governing
throughout cycles of world imagination plunder means profit

everywhere religion is practiced on topography as weapons used
as tools written in typography to conquer minds to slaughter for gold
where entire civilizations become flotsam floating across memory seas
heirloom trees cut down as men loot the planet without remorse

their minds absent of empathy they remember/know only greed
these nomadic avatars of gizzard-hearted darth vaders who celebrate
"shock-doctrines" everywhere ballooning earnings-sheet bottom lines
their only creed for being on earth until death cuts them down

 

3.
but poetry still lives somewhere in airstreams evoking creative breath
lives in the restless sea speaking a miscegenation of musical tongues
lives within the holy miracle of birds elevating flight into dreams & song
as errançities of spirits create holy inside accumulation of daybreaks

raise everyday miraculous voices collaborating underneath star-nailed
clear black skies & the milky eye of a full moon over guadeloupe
listen to the mélange of tongues compelling in nature's lungs in new york
city tongues flung out as invitations for sharing wondrous songs

which nature is a summons to recognize improvisation as a surprising path
to divergence through the sound of scolopendra rooted somewhere here
in wonder when humans explode rhythms inside thickets of words/puns
celebrating the human spirit of imagination is what poets seek

listen for cries of birds lifting off for somewhere above the magical
pulse of sea waves swirling language immense with the winds sound
serenading us through leaves full of ripe fruit sweet as fresh water
knowing love might be deeper than greed & is itself a memory

a miracle always there might bring us closer to reconciliation inside
restless métisse commingling voices of errançities wandering within
magic the mystery of creation pulling us forward to wonder to know
human possibility is always a miraculous gift is always a conundrum

In Tongues

for Auntie Jeanette

1.
Because you haven’t spoken
in so long, the tongue stumbles and stutters,
sticks to the roof and floor as if the mouth were just
a house in which it could stagger like a body unto itself.

You once loved a man so tall
sometimes you stood on a chair to kiss him.

2.
What to say when one says,
“You’re sooo musical,” takes your stuttering for scatting,
takes your stagger for strutting,
takes your try and tried again for willful/playful deviation?

It makes you wanna not holla
silence to miss perception’s face.

3.
It ain’t even morning or early,
though the sun-up says “day,” and you been
staggering lange Zeit gegen a certain
breathless stillness that we can’t but call death.

Though stillness suggests a possibility
of less than dead, of move, of still be.

4.
How that one calling your tryin’
music, calling you sayin’ entertaining, thinks
there’s no then that we, (who den dat we?), remember/
trace in our permutations of say?

What mastadonic presumptions precede and
follow each word, each be, each bitter being?

5.
These yawns into which we enter as into a harbor—
Come. Go. Don’t. says the vocal oceans which usher
each us, so unlike any ship steered or steering into.
A habit of place and placing a body.

Which choruses of limbs and wanting, of limp
linger in each syllabic foot tapping its chronic codes?