Take a knee

Take a knee

I am willing to take a knee with thee
and imagine I am sitting at counter in a Kresge
on a lukewarm late winter’s day
in Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston Salem
or Hampton, Virginia

I am willing to take a knee with thee
to hear the aroma of fear turn sweat into scent
and think that the things I buy
I buy with the currency
not of my body
but of my mother’s father’s mother’s decision
to keep reproducing a blanching pigmentation
rather than letting things go another way.

I take a knee with thee alone in my room
knowing that while no one can see me
I have to be willing first to see myself.

And I see myself and say
it is not the spiritual symbolism of my act
that is what must be brought out into public spaces
-actually physical places with truncheons
and kevlar and insults that can be heard up close
even if they are streamed in from afar

I see myself and say
it is not the fear and trembling of my bowels
or an anger so pure in both its shame and dignified
outrage it makes me chant shame shame damn damn
fuck fuck inside while wanting to turn saint
and murderer alike

I see myself on my knees and say
why is it so delicious to long for this day
to count where I stand among thee
while in my heart, in my head
I reach for words in anger that will betray me
so that thou shalt rightly call me
hypocrite

Hypocrite lecteur,
témoin blanche maudite
or whatever exotic words I seek
to shout from the rafters of my bought intellect
that profound self-suspicion about my own voice’s
use.

I take a knee with thee
so you can wrap me in the colors
and shield me from the knowledge
that the undoing of what has been done
we have barely begun.

Publius

Advertisements

Sin to say

Sin to say

It is now a sin to say
‘least’
but you can’t say
‘poor’
because poor is, above all, boring

And to be boring is, of course,
something to deplore

You can’t say ‘black’
because black should be ‘ethnic’
and ethnic should mean
‘white’
while white should be objective
and transparent to truth

Can a man say call me ‘she’
or a woman mean ‘he’ when she says
‘look at me’?

And what is sin
if not a mark of membership
a covenant
and a declension

Words that are not said
phrases you aren’t supposed to say
never ring more true
than when understudies
perform in their place

The star of each show
is the long shadow
impertinent, rancid, arresting
the actor who molests your blood
by unveiling meaning.

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