City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Category: poems

Black History

Prejudice.jpg

you talk to me about
black history
but you think Mick Jagger wrote
“Midnight Rambler”

but he did
but he did

I’m making 1969 in my basement
I’m singing the white blues in my soul
we got a party goin’ on down here
round midnight

outside the economists are burning down Detroit
everything is dark except the past
you said, somebody woke up Jim Crow
& he can’t stop dancing

Image: “Mr. Prejudice,” Horace Pippin (1888-1946), (c) 1943.

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Cracker King

Crown Elvis

come on everybody do the twist & stomp
come on everybody do the twist & stomp
tell em, womp womp

come on sister do the twist & crawl
come on sister do the twist & crawl
& build that wall

come on brother do the twist & swing
come on brother do the twist & swing
I’m the Cracker King

Him, Returning

your poetry
sometimes
is too much like
that thing
I ran from

once I knew
better

Tupac

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broke n****s thuggemup
coke n****s druggemup
joke n****s fuggemup
woke n****s duggemup

protest wrote the Constitution

protest wrote the Constitution
fugitive slaves freed the slaves
(we say enslaved)
our cities were never surrounded in flame
we never heard sirens in the night
beckoning us back to the rocks
where our dreams are over
and we carry on
wash the blood off the flag
and wave it proudly*

*Mari Matsuda, “Voices of America: Accent, Antidiscrimination Law, and a Jurisprudence for the Last Reconstruction,” Yale Law Journal 1991

Big Head, NJ

Bay Head NJ.JPG

gonna crawl back in my hole
gonna be a mole
gonna slither back on the beach
gonna be a leech

I’m hiding from the light of day
outside where good mole children play
I’m hiding from the sun
my bloodletting days are done

Big Head, New Jersey is my home
I’ll sleep amid the dunes
I’ll drown myself in ice cream cones
I’ll find love in the ruins

And we’ll go racing in the street
We’ll shut ‘em up and down
I’ll take the boardwalk with me
Obliterate this town

The Seventies

I’ve been to Hollywood
I’ve been to Redwood
Never going back again

Dancing Bear (for Gord Downie)

we die a little
when he dies
robbed of his music
that was never really ours

the impenetrable gaze
the inscrutable phrase
a name projected on a cave

we rave
until dawn
we move on
we move to the music
that was never ours

Wolves

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you told me I was the token male
with mezcal in your coffee
I’ve been known to occasionally
run with the wolves,
I said
I occasionally run with the wolves

did you hear that, we’re wolves
you told her
with something in your eyes
my lover didn’t recognize
and on the jukebox the man in black sang
never do me harm
never do me harm

we dropped you off
at the Christian Street Y
you whispered in her ear,
why don’t you make a baby
you said, why don’t you make a baby tonight

you must have known we weren’t breeders
either
we’re cat people
see these eyes so green
I’m sure you must have known we were cat people
but I didn’t know you were actual wolves

70

when you call me
you never call me
when you call me
make me a baby
when I was a baby once
before your time
& will be
before you will