Poems Like Flown Aeroplanes

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Stefano Greggio)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Stefano Greggio)

You have to trust
like a passenger trusts
the pilot landing the
double-decker commercial jet
in the middle of a brewed hurricane.
Any less, and the whole hollow-boned
contraption falls from the sky
like an aluminum sparrow.

You have to trust
that he can handle the wind,
turn the turbulence of the subject deftly
enough to lift your interest,
fling you across continents,
and drop you off exactly where you
need to end up, even if it isn’t
where you thought you would be.

You have to trust
in his dogged experience,
his years of fighter-jet barrel-rolls
with whistling-wing accompaniment
flapping hot and hostile
over hungry miles of earth.

You have to trust
in all his tortuous training,
his hundreds of hours of accumulated flight,
the time and tears he’s invested
for the enjoyment and benefit of us all.

And then, you have to trust
in yourself to do the same.

Emotions Like Vaccines

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Noodles and Beef)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Noodles and Beef)

I am the rock that never liked needles,
never needed the spikes to appreciate the lulls.
If I’ve felt it hard just once,
then the memory is enough
to leave me inoculated.

But you, sick with your emotion,
are drawn to my stability.
You step ever closer closer and stand
with arms wide to spread the disease.
I can see it leaking now from your eyes.
Your body writhes from it,
and I do not understand how you shake.
Breathe your screams elsewhere.
Do not infect me with some new strain
I have never before felt;
all my avoidance will be shot.

May my antibodies spike soon.
My heart cannot take another illness.
It might tear, and I do not know
if the next rip will make it stronger.

Under the Skin

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Christine Mitchell)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Christine Mitchell)

I

We ink ourselves up
hoping to find someone
with a matching sign,
a homing signal for something
we have in common,
something that communes with us both.

We wear our hearts out
where our sleeves would go
so whoever’s trying to fathom them
doesn’t have to search so hard.
We want to be found,
and to find the jagged puzzle pieces
of their art that mesh with ours.

II

Our pigments are carrier pigeons,
and the messengers are losing syllabic feathers
with every oxidized breath stroke.

These are our heaviest metals,
pin-prick traumas to make memorials
of the worse ones we’ve somehow escaped
visibly unscarred. We pay to have them embossed,
exposed to show and tell our stories
like kindergarten picture books.
Maybe then they’ll finally understand.

III

I will prove my worth to you in ink,
in a name not signed by my own hand.

This will fade with time, as all things do.
But by it, you will always recognize my darkness
and the depths of my commitment.

The Haul

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Alex Saurel)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Alex Saurel)

I have committed genocide for your bellies.
I have done it countless times.
My body tally has ensnared billions,
and still, you demand more severed heads.

The viscous brown broth
that sloshes out of their holding cells
is the brew of all their heady fluids.
These have slowly left their carcasses,
then pooled and stewed for days.
It has taken me twenty years to realize this.

But draining and drinking this cocktail
will not give you their strength.
Their power is in the crack and peel of their skeletons,
the chewing and sliding of their endless meat.

And I am the worst kind of tyrant,
the one who slaughters some for money
and others for pleasure.
I’m the puppet of a weightier power –
more knowledgeable, more hard-headed, more calloused –
pulling every string into rope into net
to drag us all in whichever direction he prefers.

Maybe one day we’ll learn
if it was god who made man in his image,
or man who made a god out of his.

The Pup That Made Me Paternal

The Wee Baby Cappy, or Young Captain Alejandro (9 weeks old)
The Wee Baby Cappy, or Young Captain Alejandro (9 weeks old)

I

I’d never thought something could burrow
it’s way into my heart so quickly and deeply,
mostly because nothing before ever had.

On the 12-hour drive home after picking you
up from the pet store, you slept soundly in our laps,
yapping only when we’d left you alone,
kicking at whatever your young brain dreamt.

You were 9-weeks young and starved for companionship,
and I am a fool of a father who never had something
so fully dependent upon him for its survival.
You terrify me into being better.

II

My mother, walking out the front glass door
at the exact moment my brother’s runaway basketball
darts into the street. I give chase,
trying to catch it before it thumps a neighbor’s car alarm to life
and we have to escape inside for fear of being found out.

The neighbor’s daughter – who would go on to become
Miss Louisiana 2008 – is fresh from the DMV
with her laminate learner’s permit.
She rolls down our cracked street with zeal and pageant pride,
and sees a stray basketball bounce but a few feet in front
of her birthday sedan, with a 10-year-old child
hot on its rubber heels beneath a southern summer sun.

My mother bleats my name with such ferocious fear
that all I could do was freeze despite the heat,
yanked back by mental puppy scruff.
The ball’s dying arc comes only inches in front of her bumper
as the brakes gave off a curious burnt crisp.
All four of us just stop and stare for a beat,
feeling fortunate for the fates we’d all just somehow avoided.

III

That night your golden fluff let you wriggle out of your collar
and you immediately dashed toward the regularly-congested street,
I stood in awe for a few seconds, wondering how
this might have happened despite all our caution.

When the danger rushed back in,
you were halfway gone up the block,
gleeful tongue hanging out the side of your maw,
and I full-sprinted after like a tagged child
hoping to overtake you in what you thought was a new game.

You would have been dead had it not been for the hour.
And as I tripped you and scooped you up into my arms
and carried you all the way back home
with my hand holding firm on the back of your neck,
the only things I could think of were
my anger, my shame, my dodged sadness,
and the sudden understanding I now had of my mother.

Where Weeds Will Grow

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Professor Bop)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Professor Bop)

We’re weeds grown through concrete of broken streets.
We were never meant to survive.
Thrown into this abandoned section of the city
without much green around, we’ve learned to grow
the color in other ways. This did not turn out
how you thought it would, and you are
angered, unthreatened, impressed, and unsure all at once.

We’re weeds grown along endless stretches of highway.
We were never meant to survive.
Eaten and shat out again by the cherry-picking birds,
we’ve endured the intestines of your society
and have since moved on, closer to its arteries.
One day, you will weaken, and we will prick them, then invade –
escaping this land of longing and neglect.
You will have underestimated us again,
and you will not see this coming.

We’re weeds grown in woods, fighting for space among old trees.
We were never meant to survive.
We have ridden on the wind and are now the invasive species
in soil that should have always been ours.
But we’ve done more before with less,
and we will endure the winter
in spite of all your endless choking
and the basic nutrients you refuse to share.
We know how to move fast and unattached –
it’s those who stay too long where they don’t belong
whom grow slow and fat and put down roots too deep
before they realize it’s all just holding them back.

We’re weeds growing in your garden.
We were never meant to make it here.
But your beautiful daughter thought us a beautiful flower
and has replanted us right outside your back doorstep.
Oh yes, we’ve learned how to disguise ourselves;
the darkness of the forest was one hell of a tutor.
And now we grow and thrive right under your nose;
just our scent makes you sneeze uncontrollably.
We may try to reclaim further inward. We haven’t decided yet.
But it’s your fear that we might which feeds us today.

That, and knowing our hold over you
if you try to uproot us now:
We will take everything you love with us.
Our deaths are intertwined – they always have been –
but now you will feel it too
when one of ours is plucked from his land
and left to rot in the street, withering under the summer sun
that would always make him reach for the skies.

His Real Black Girl(s)

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Tatenda Nyamande)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Tatenda Nyamande)

 

He told me that I don’t date real black girls,
as if only his eyes’ gaze and licked lips mattered.
Tight dresses and wide hips swaying in the club
to old-school rap beats was how he imagined
every black girl should be,
would ever want to be.

I threatened his newest Jays at knifepoint
to make him feel the slice of his own words,
to threaten something that he loved just as much.
His bravado shrunk three sizes that day –
took him a week to grow it back enough
to fit into the mouth of those shoes once again.

I realized then how much all his talk was just
hot air breathed onto the back of some stripper’s neck,
mumbling affections he’d never pronounce clearly at closing time
when the harsh and honest lights were switched back on.

He was still recovering from the actual black woman
whom had outsmarted and outsexed him,
left him standing alone again without her south
to warm him in the bite of the Yankee winter.
She’d peeled his thick coat of masculinity
right off his prone back, and he watched
wide-eyed as she dropped his heart
in boredom and barefoot walked away
as it slowly began to stain the snow.

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau

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