The Talk

What you’ll learn here is important.
Sit quietly, now, and let me explain.
I will show you how this works.

First, be perfect. No errors in diction,
in posture, attire, stride, or movement.
What you’ll learn here is important.

Second, be patient. Watch your grandfather,
mother, brother, daughter, push the rock uphill.
I will show you how this works.

The rock will slip at the top of the hill,
but see! This time it falls not quite so far.
What you’ll learn here is important.

The secret is blood and bone, piled so high,
the rock can slide no further. Progress!
I will show you how this works.

Your ankles’ skin will serve for bootstraps,
and one day, your flesh will shorten the day’s work.
What you’ll learn here is important.
I will show you how this works.

-C. G. Brown
9 April 2018

Y.N.D.

“Your nigger dead.”
Checkmate. A King just got shot.
“Your nigger dead.”
I had to shoot. He was smoked out on that pot.
“Your nigger dead.”
He had a gun, crowbar, toy, a cell phone.
“Your nigger dead.”
He shouldn’t have carried that in front of his home.
“Your nigger dead.”
He was twelve, but he looked like a grown man.
“Your nigger dead.”
He left me no choice. It wasn’t my plan.
“Your nigger dead.”
She shouldn’t have mouthed off at that cop.
“Your nigger dead.”
If you weren’t a criminal, the violence would stop.
“Your nigger dead.”
He shouldn’t have tried to run away.
“Your nigger dead.”
He was a threat, even still as he lay.
“Your nigger dead.”
Selling loosies is a crime.
“Your nigger dead.”
It’s better that we skipped the judge this time.
“Your nigger dead.”
Stop saying you didn’t do nothing, you lie.
“Your nigger dead.”
You come for me, it’s gonna be “Die, Nigger! Die!”
“Your nigger dead.”
You can’t treat Samaritans with respect.
“Your nigger dead.”
She’s a slut. We stone. What else did you expect?
“Your nigger dead.”
Talking about some, “I am”! Who are you?
“Your nigger dead.”
He should spend some time with real Jews.
“Your nigger dead.”
Enemies of the state get crucified.
“Your nigger dead.”
“Your nigger dead.”
“Your nigger dead.”

Naw, death’s gon’ die. We still alive.

-C. G. Brown
4-5 April 2018

As-Is

This house is falling apart.
The paint crinkles, bends backward,
ripples like skin on cold soup.
Beneath, drywall experiences ennui,
waits for a purpose beyond demarcation.
The ceiling and the walls recede.
The floor bends, tilts to one side or the other.

The load-bearing wall talked to me this morning.
She’d had enough of the weight.
She told me how, overwhelmed by the pain,
she whimpered at night. The floors creaked
in sympathy, but then were silent.
The front wall said, “me too,” but offered no buttress.

This house is falling apart.
One day, the occupants who so blithely reside
will find themselves awakened to a crash,
as a wall awkwardly ambles down a suburban side street
and facades, shocked by their loss of bearings,
try not to crush them on the way down.

-C. G. Brown
2 April 2018

Carnival

Something in the smoothness
of machined plastic and polished steel,
something in the perfect warmth
of lights designed when electricity was not tamed,
carried in pockets, on wrists,
when things electric still warranted wonder,
still burned the curious touch like Franklin’s key,
takes me up and away, to filtered film reels
in the mind, to see through their eyes, untainted joy.

Our devices secured, we spin around
in seats engineered to hold us
like a father holds a child, sifting kernels of dread
for fine joy through a sieve of imagined danger.

And even with alert eyes, and encompassing arms,
and higher heights, and bigger drops,
somewhere inside, I am stretched wide with trust,
hurtling impossibly high, six feet above ground,
glowing golden in the encroaching darkness,
with newly-minted wonder.

-C. G. Brown

Catechism

Rorschach pools gather again.
We look outside, breath condensing at the window
as we fervently seek to find The Stranger, our adversary.
We double-lock our doors
as the slate-gray burn singes our nostrils.
At our feet, casings for rosary beads.
We kneel, and bow, and recite our catechism.

“Hail Pistol, full of protection
I need no one but you with me.
Blessed are you among weapons,
and blessed be the fruit of your womb, Bullet.
Holy Pistol, mother of Safety,
cover our weaknesses and fears now
and ward the hour of our death.”

This god does not hear the thump of flesh on concrete,
cannot smell acrid, sweating fear as the lambs run,
cannot taste the blood you feed it.
We look outside, seeking The Stranger,
while those we keep, coddle, then ignore
creep at our backs, mouthing prayers
to a senseless god, and reloading.

-C. G. Brown

Dedicated to far too many.

Gemini (for Eunice and Nina)

Eunice wanted to play.
In a concert hall with the precise
and measured proportions of a cello, she’d sit.
Fine, fine, this Bösendorfer, waiting to serve,
to sing at the mistress’s command.

Instead, Nina sang.
Through nights, cloven hooved,
this toe black, that one white,
’til dawn, driving a baritone up Jacob’s ladder
until it spread across the sky, electric, angelic.

Rage as unkempt as lightning.
White boys’ stares and freshly licked lips
would have to do for refined applause.
Another martini, on the house,
for flowers at her feet.

And through the chaos of her Gemini self, this
A pulsing, gravitic heart of a neutron star.
An angel descends the ladder, bandoliers and Afros,
seeking the doors where the blood
has been carefully scrubbed away.

And this, through the chaos of her reclaimed self.
Standing on the shore, facing west,
tracing a lyric reversal of the course of precious cargo,
and watching a crackle in the sky.
“Like me, like me,” she must have thought.

We are left, then, commissioned to carry,
to run the voodoo down, to watch
where the lightning meets the sea, and imagine
if they had just let Eunice play
how wonderful that would be.

-C. G. Brown