Conyers

Conyers

-for Aubrey Pollard, Fred Temple & Carl Cooper

I

The stories we tell ourselves
sincere as they seem
mostly overlook the stories others
live individually
so we live in worlds where blue is green

While buildings burn
while freeways are built
through cramped campuses
of what was simply available
While civic leaders bruit
about promises they cannot keep
While imagination remains the true
invisible hand making its porous
palm felt across the land

The heat from the streets
from locked gun cabinets
and pockets not deep enough
to do something enduring
about the Jones that grows
so it is that confessions
and intentions pale beside
predilections that hardly
can be called
the snows of yesteryear.

II

Congressman Conyers
standing on the hood of a friend’s car
implores the rioters, looters
to return home before the first molotov
cocktail is thrown
before the first child is acquired
by scattered fire

These are his people, or so he believes
they put him in office
assured him of his status
respected that he bought his own place
just a mere two blocks over
from the worst street of sin in the city

So it is a genuine rebuke when they say
‘We don’t want to hear it’
they might as well have called him a honkey
or an ofay
and as a bottle shatters on the street
mere inches from his aide’s feet
he stands down, shaken
saying:

‘You try to talk to those people and they’ll knock you
into the middle of next year.’

III

They had the best mayor in the land
the one who came in on a promise that
he’d put in a chief of police
one who understood the nature of the stress
the black man experienced
merely trying to walk to get a late night brew
on streets familiar enough that he should have been
known to any uniform
vice squad or unmarked cruiser patrolling that beat

The folks said the mayor’s appointment
of Justice Edwards as the new chief
was as reassuring and prideful a moment
as President Johnson’s placement of Marshall
on the highest court in the land

Edwards, it should be said, was himself
a white man.

IV

Three young men
all suspect
by virtue of the color
of their skin
were simply dining late
and taking it all in
when a mysterious act
on the floor below
led to shouts of sniper!
and the arrival
of the police and the Guard
so that within a couple of hours
all three young men were dead

Should it be said
that it was fitting that
these deaths occurred in
a motel known as the Algiers
a city famous for a colonial war
that had been lost by the same power
that had passed the baton of its flailing
effort at curbing insurrection in another
formerly colonial land
and that these United States had taken up
a similar mission civilatrice
in that other corner of the brown and yellow world
only to find that bombs and martial superiority
couldn’t cure the clear intent of those yellow ni&*^rs
to no longer take orders from a white Christian face
if it could be replaced by a party or committee
that preached power and proffered proof
that power is still power
even if means to be lord of a pile of rubble.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Laughing at the Trickster God

Laughing at the Trickster God

-for the daughter of Diamond Reynolds one year later

If what actually distinguishes each of us today
is not our personal merit, achievement
even our education;
if it is not the languages that we speak
but the mark,
the very design of our birth

That is,
what purportedly we are
to others
and not what we believe
ourselves to be

That is,
our color not our collar
our gender not our retainer
not even our gender and our color
in a one-two killer crossover

That is,
not a set of right souls
in the wrong bodies
or wrong souls in right bodies

Then how is it that any of us are any more sure
than those little children in Clarendon County
or Harlem
who held Dr. Kenneth Clark’s dolls
and identified with the other
rather than what they were

How many of us might like to be likened to
or follow in train of
a four year old girl who,
with a Glock pointed at her,
was capable of reassuring her mother:

Mother, it will be alright

What is merit of life if not that-
What is life making if not holding
a Chai
or a drum
a chair suspended above our shoulders

Or laughing at the trickster God
who walks between us
forever changing the side of the hat
that we see-

Diamond Reynolds, your daughter
this is what she taught me.

Jeremy Nathan Marks