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Tongo Eisen-Martin

Tongo Eisen-Martin was born in San Francisco, California, and received an MA from Columbia University. He is the author of Someone's Dead Already (Bootstrap Press, 2015), which was nominated for a California Book Award, and Heaven Is All Goodbyes (City Lights Publishers, 2017), which received the California Book Award and an American Book Award. A poet, movement worker, and educator, his latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, We Charge Genocide Again, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country.

By This Poet

1

I Do Not Know the Spelling of Money

I go to the railroad tracks
And follow them to the station of my enemies

A cobalt-toothed man pitches pennies
at my mugshot negative

All over the united states, there are
Toddlers in the rock

I see why everyone out here
got in the big cosmic basket
And why blood agreements mean a lot
And why I get shot back at

I understand the psycho-spiritual refusal
to write white history or take the glass freeway

White skin tattooed on my right forearm
Ricochet sewage near where I collapsed
into a rat-infested manhood

My new existence as living graffiti

In the kitchen with
a lot of gun cylinders to hack up
House of God in part
No cops in part

My body brings down the Christmas

The new bullets pray over blankets made from old bullets

Pray over the 28th hour’s next beauty mark

Extrajudicial confederate statue restoration
the waist band before the next protest poster

By the way,
Time is not an illusion, your honor
I will save your desk for last
You are witty, your honor
You’re moving money again, your honor

It is only raining one thing: non-white cops

And prison guard shadows
Reminding me of
Spoiled milk floating on an oil spill

A neighborhood making a lot of fuss over its demise

A new lake for a Black Panther Party

Malcom X’s ballroom jacket slung over my son’s shoulders
The figment of village
a noon noose to a new white preacher
             -All in an abstract painting of a president

Bought slavers some time, didn’t it?
The tantric screeches of military bolts and Election-Tuesday cars

A cold-blooded study in leg irons

Proof that some white people have actually fondled nooses
             That sundown couples
             made their vows of love over
                        opaque peach plastic
                        and bolt action audiences      

Man, the Medgar Evers-second is definitely my favorite law of science

Fondled news clippings and primitive Methodists

My arm changes imperialisms
Simple policing vs. Structural frenzies
Elementary school script vs. Even whiter white spectrums

Artless bleeding and
the challenge of watching civilians think

“terrible rituals they have around the corner.
They let their elders beg for public mercy”

“I am going to go ahead and sharpen these kids’ heads
into arrows myself and see
how much gravy spills out of family crests.”

Modern fans of war
              What with their t-shirt poems
              And t-shirt guilt

And me, having on the cheapest pair of shoes on the bus,
I have no choice but to read the city walls for signs of my life