to be touched,
that can’t love,
that reminds us
we are the worst
for the ineffable
belief in nothing
and what it leaves
A Black Out poem based on the poem below by Seth Abramson.
What I Have
By Seth Abramson
Twelve dollars sixty cents,
& the fact that there is no blood no storm
can’t wash into dirt, that the time for these words
is already ended,
that for all the rain that has been here before
so have I.
& there is less water in the world
than a famous woman once said, & I know that,
& that the stars in the river
also are real I also know, for they disappear also
& refuse also to be touched. & I have touched
bare things, & it works—
it can be the sole unbraided moment in a life—
but even so, what better days look like to me is still
the tiny gore
of heartbreak, & long walks with small shoes
that can’t be taken off,
& schools in a city I love that put molded cages
over their clocks,
because that works too to remind us
we are not ready. & the worst of all is anything that
stays as it is
At lunchtime a woman famous for her ability
to praise the ineffable
says she can’t believe anyone returns
to where they came from.
But of course they do. In fact
some do nothing else. & what is it they leave behind?
Perhaps not the meaning of time,
but the time of meaning, & the fact that whatever
will change it.
Source: Poetry (March 2009)
shadows fall between
present and past
where forgotten dreams
by a memory
A Blackout Poem inspired by the poem by Jessie Redmon Fauset below:
By Jessie Redmon Fauset
Again, as always, when the shadows fall,
In that sweet space between the dark and day,
I leave the present and its fretful claims
And seek the dim past where my memories stay.
I dream an old, forgotten, far-off dream,
And think old thoughts and live old scenes anew,
Till suddenly I reach the heart of Spring—
The spring that brought me you!
I see again a little woody lane,
The moonlight rifting golden through the trees;
I hear the plaintive chirp of drowsy bird
Lulled dreamward by a tender, vagrant breeze;
I hold your hand, I look into your eyes,
I touch your lips,—oh, peerless, matchless dower!
Oh, Memory thwarting Time and Space and Death!
Oh, Little Perfect Hour!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
i am them
my ancestors have muttered
through me, a mouth like fire
that says I am brave, that
only those who love the light
can comprehend, I am centuries
away from my people, their
history writes my solidarity
with them, I am a continent,
a country, a home, my body
whistling empty in reverence
A Blackout Poem inspired by the poem below, by by Assétou Xango
Many of my contemporaries,
Have a name that brings the tongue to worship.
Names that feel like ritual in your mouth.
I don’t want a name said without pause,
muttered without intention.
I am through with names that leave me unmoved.
Names that leave the speaker’s mouth unscathed.
I want a name like fire,
like my hand gripping massa’s whip—
I want a name from before the ships
A name Donald Trump might choke on.
I want a name that catches you in the throat
if you say it wrong
and if you’re afraid to say it wrong,
then I guess you should be.
I want a name only the brave can say
a name that only fits right in the mouth of those who love me right,
because only the brave
can love me right
Assétou Xango is the name you take when you are tired
of burying your jewels under thick layers of
Assétou the light
Xango the pickaxe
so that people must mine your soul
just to get your attention.
If you have to ask why I changed my name,
it is already too far beyond your comprehension.
Call me callous,
but with a name like Xango
I cannot afford to tread lightly.
You go hard
or you go home
and I am centuries
and ships away
from any semblance
of a homeland.
I am a thief’s poor bookkeeping skills way from any source of ancestry.
I am blindly collecting the shattered pieces of a continent
much larger than my comprehension.
I hate explaining my name to people:
their eyes peering over my journal
looking for a history they can rewrite
Ask me what my name means…
What the fuck does your name mean Linda?
Not every word needs an English equivalent in order to have significance.
I am done folding myself up to fit your stereotype.
Your black friend.
Your African Queen Meme.
Your hurt feelings.
Your desire to learn the rhetoric of solidarity
without the practice.
I do not have time to carry your allyship.
I am trying to build a continent,
My name is the only thing I have that is unassimilated
and I’m not even sure I can call it mine.
The body is a safeless place if you do not know its name.
Assétou is what it sounds like when you are trying to bend a syllable
into a home.
With shaky shudders
And wind whistling through your empty,
I feel empty.
There is no safety in a name.
No home in a body.
A name is honestly just a name
A name is honestly just a ritual
And it still sounds like reverence.
by Assétou Xango
I am bones, marrow,
a song in mute, white
noise silence, a blank
nothing, my soul red,
I am a glimpse, a breath
I am undone by worry
turning to dust
A Blackout Poem inspired by the poem below by Afaa Michael Weaver.
a city of bones
deep inside my marrow,
a song in
decrescendo to mute, rise
to white noise, half silence s
in a blank harmony as all
comes to nothing, my eyes
the central fire of my soul,
yellow, orange, red —gone I am,
in an instant and then back
for a glimpse,
as precise as a bird’s breath,
when I am perfect, undone
hope when hope will not worry
listen, the moon wasting
to where I need not
that bones turn to ash,
a brittle staccato in dust.
prepared me for
into the empty
A Blackout Poem based on the poem below by Heiu Minh Nguyen:
Uptown, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Even though it’s May & the ice cream truck
parked outside my apartment is somehow certain,
I have a hard time believing winter is somehow,
all of a sudden, over — the worst one of my life,
the woman at the bank tells me. Though I’d like to be,
it’s impossible to be prepared for everything.
Even the mundane hum of my phone catches me
off guard today. Every voice that says my name
is a voice I don’t think I could possibly leave
(it’s unfair to not ask for the things you need)
even though I think about it often, even though
is a train headed somewhere I’d probably hate.
Crossing Lyndale to meet a friend for coffee
I have to maneuver around a hearse that pulled too far
crosswalk. It’s empty. Perhaps spring is here.
it will all be worth it. Even though I knew|
even then it was worth it, staying, I mean. waiting for me.
Even now, there is someone, somehow,