Victims of Unreason

John Keene, in an interview with Tonya Foster in Bomb Magazine, Fall 2015, posits “[c]apitalism being the quintessence of reason, in one way, and of unreason, in another,” and speaks, later, of “the victims of unreason…”

Until they're all converted, every block has a skinny white lady of indeterminate age with an underbite and a cigarette in her right hand swinging as she makes her way down the block. Sometimes this lady organizes the trash in the courtyard in the middle of the night into neat bundles of bulk, bags and recycling. Sometimes this lady screams through the wall that you're a whore and he's a faggot or mumbles under her breath when you pass her in the hallway, the street, the bodega. She wears the same small blue jacket and gray hoodie all winter, face the very image of the moon in Le voyage dans la Lune, space capsule in her

eye. Until they’re replaced,” she may or may not have children, who may or may not be bigger than her, may or may not be wholly or partially white, who indicate some sort of dalliance with boundaries she seems loathe to cross, at least socially, now, and they may or may not also smoke cigarettes, organize the trash or clean the sidewalk, or mumble beneath their breath when you pass. None of them is the super or the super’s family or in any way connected with anything official like the super, but they keep the building, and it's environs, clean, and for this they earn a begrudging respect from their neighbors, until they are gone.

Until the buildings are all filled with white people who have money to spend at cafés and wine bars, and for a little while thereafter, there is, on every block, a black man dressed for all seasons in a camel hair coat, hat with ear flaps, and tattered leather gloves who paces the street speaking to no one In particular in a language no one the neighborhood understands; not Arabic, Spanish, Nahuatl, or English. This man may or may not have a small white dog he pushes in a stroller, he may or may not pull a toddler out of the path of an oncoming car; the ambulance may or may not call at his door repeatedly, the health department may or may

not issue repeated summons. Until they are gone, the people of the block will feed him from the block party proceeds, and the bodega will make of him an honored guest; he may or may not carry a boombox or plastic bag he uses to pick up detritus of the night’s garbage wind and under snow melt remainings. Until he is displaced, he may or may not have a house or apartment, space which is only entered by him, his shopping cart and himself alone, and when he approaches his own threshold his shouts and cries turn to low and coarse offerings at keyholes, punic columns of books in a foyer of grime, until they are gone.

Where Is She ::: Koté Li Yé

Long ago I met
a beautiful boy

Together we slept
 in my mother's womb 

Now the street of our fathers 
rises to eat him
::
Everything black
is forbidden in Eden

In my arms my brother
sleeps, teeth pearls

I give away the night
so he can have this slumber
::
I give away the man
who made me white

I give away the man
who freed my mother

I pry apart my skull
my scalp unfurls 
::
I nestle him gray
inside my brain, 

my brother sleeps
and dreams of genes

mauve lips fast against spine
he breathes. The sky
::
bends into my eyes
as they search for his skin 

Helicopter blades
invade our peace:::

Where is that Black
Where is it
Where
::
Blades slice, whine
pound the cupolas 

I slide him down and out
the small of my vertebrae 

He scurries down the bone
and to the ocean
::
navigates home 
in a boat carved of gommier

When he reaches our island 
everyone is relieved 

though they have not
forgotten me, belsé
::
Where is
your sister, eh?
Whey?

Koté belsé yé?
Whey?

Koté li yé 
Koté li yé
To the sand
To the stars on the sea 

Koté li yé
Koté li yé
To the one-celled egun
To the torpid moon 

Koté li yé
Koté li yé
::
There:::

Koté li yé
drapes across a baton;
glows electric in shine of taser;
pumped dry with glass bottle;
::
There:::

Koté li yé
vagina gape into the night;
neck dangle taut with plastic
bags and poorly knotted ropes;
::
There::: 

Koté li yé
belsé
Koté?

:::	     I burn 

my skin shines blacker, lacquer

:::	     non-mwen sé 		      flambó

ashes tremble in the moonlight

::: 	     sans humanité

my smoking bones fume the future

::: 	     pa bwè afwéchi pou lafiyèv dòt moun

Ma Ramon

Ma Ramon would fall upon the floor
feigning death at her children’s no’s
when they were too grown to force the bending

M’ pa palé anglé, she’d say, no eenglees
to tax collectors and those too dark to fall
within her notice. She a grand lady
of Abercrombie Street now the capital
was under the Queen and not the rusted
Republique. She did not
believe in London, the pappy show
that was the civil service, good jobs
for brown faces behind a desk.

She believed in land. Her own mystical origins
lay en la France, in red-haired green-eyed
aristocrats escaping guillotines and egalité
for seven mountains they would call their own
and though she had to marry black for money
she never forgot she was person of qualité.
She kept her parchment mother in lace and linen
photographed herself with all her siblings
maintained a piano in the parlor
for butter-skinned suitors with Creole tongues
to swirl the Castellan with dervish daughters
petticoats twining with worsted knickers.

Eh ben, Lucretia! Allé, Ena!  Oú ça, John?
Vini, Vivi!  Dansé, dansé!  Li beau, nuh?
Mes bel enfants, my beautiful cream children.

the density of history…

—Franz Fanon

I’m an AMERICAN

I like
to be happy

I don’t want
to feel bad

I want
to feel good
like

everything is all
right, even when
it’s clearly not

I’m so

LUCKY

I’m an American
and so

I’m LUCKY
too

I’m so LUCKY
that anytime I want to

I can find something
to make me HAPPY

Something cheap       Something pretty
easy. 

I can surround myself
with people convinced

that everything
is GREAT!

Unfortunately

I was raised by
NON AMERICANS
(people who were constantly              challenging my attempts)
(to construct this HAPPY):

“That’s what’s wrong
 with you
KIDS”

my father would say

“You’re
too 

HAPPY”

HAPPY meaning not
that we were not suffering

(for he made us suffer)

but that we were
AMERICAN

so succulently
part of that

happy American culture 
where we watched

Andy Griffith
till we felt nothing

but candy canes