Where I Am From
Where I am from, we count nights and not days/by day, we become one with the forest to evade bullets/and by night we search for the biggest holes to conceal our bodies.
In Case of Fire
In case of capture/this poem is reversible/Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o wrote a novel/on sheets of prison toilet paper/The blank side of this page/is suitable for ink, or similar markers/Improvise as needed/and good luck to you.
At Heaven’s Anteroom
There/At the anteroom of heaven/The land of the Free/The wealthy kingdom beyond those mountains afar/May the eyes that see you want you/May they smile in adoration/By how handsome a soul you are.
Seeing Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez
103 degrees became a ticket for transfer/to Westlaco Border Patrol Station/a concrete block bench for a bed/thin mylar sheet for a blanket
Where did you come?
U come from/That flesh? Of which?/The one that mirrors your hue/Or, the one whose darkness seeps through?/Those wires that make up your being/are gradient sand particles aligned to the composure of one.
I Cry with the Sea
Every now and then I see her looking down at the waves/Their dance invoking memories/Warm days under African sun/when life was free.
The Aging Colossus
Cast your lantern in the darkened corners where injustice lives and where blindness-feigning Justice lies. Where children are stopped, searched, cuffed, assaulted, detained.
Pretty comes in all shades of black.
Black Girl With A Book
You’re smitten, with her sage-like words and intellectual prose/Yet you pretend, to be unimpressed, and upend, her, turning up your nose/But you cannot offend her, you’re threatened by her, and…she…knows
Between the Bars
Malcolm X said:/America means prison/For me too, O/My brother/America means prison
Yellow Comedy: a Parallel Poem
People call me yellow jack/Some hailed me as a yellow dog/When I yelped on my yellow legs/To flee from the yellow flu
This is the Drum
This is the drum that recovered myriad times/made of Cordia africana, stretched/over space, time and land, repaired/in Amerindian antelope and/deer skin, to begin again, uniting/the Akan, Virginian, Taino, and Carib.
How Do I Abandon the City?
How do I abandon the skeletons buried in my hipbone?/Pick my cells of wilful chromosomes/or chase the rascally child of my wandering to/the den of a famished road?
The cross is del otro lado, on the northern/side of the forbidden river/Gracias a Dios – it could be saying – /thank you, sweet Virgin, Virgencita/de Guadalupe, here we set our feet/on firm land again.
The mythical bridge
We are the first ones/Who went to Kemet/From the Kingdom of Kush/Without offending our ancestors
I Didn’t Know
I didn’t know/I’d be used to create a fractured dynasty/with no connection/to the land I left
Whenever they’d rise up from there/Jim Crow would beat them down again./Lesson learned; the law is not your friend.
She Presented the Governor of the Colored Department a Watermelon
It may be imagined that Harriet stayed close/to her roots – remaining in the state of Georgia/after gaining freedom. Yet her quilting patterns/illustrate past family in Benin, West Africa.
Like many/I do not know where in South Asia my ancestors were taken from generations ago/While much was lost in the pages of history/a steady thread that connects me remains
Returning to my mother’s eyes
I would return almost three decades later/to a corner supermarket – my mother’s room/A Telkom telephone booth/hangs outside the walls that contained her childhood.
Ode to Newark
Never would I imagine Newark to be a tourist destination or a dwelling for New Yorkers to squat at for cheaper rents.
What You Left Behind
It cut across your vein that ‘Black Life/Matters’ you didn’t say it because you know/The future, that you are African/That you are the future.
Stolen from Africa
We run to and fro in frenzy/like violent waters in a broad river/We bump into each other/like sand particles in a whirlwind.
Jamaican Holiday, 2006
Dance my sister/Dance my spirit round your bones/Break the illiterate silence and contorted sterility of/My 21st century over-Americanized ethnicity, Sister.
Walking the Rain
Doors are rotten mouths/they shout in wooden frames, “Get out/you don’t fit here, what’s a sunny/old girl like you doing in these parts?”
When cries/Sprinkled on the feet of tyrants/They were swept away/When bones sailed the Atlantic/Dreams drowned/Into the womb of the sea
what is a necktie if not a symbol/of white male domination/and decades of cultural oppression?/amid diminishing colonial powers/the archaic rules remain/codified in the house of parliament
Standing in front of the gold feline pendant/I recalled one of my previous incarnations./The jewelry had belonged to me/and now it was on display in the Museum of Fine Arts/where I and others stared at it.
Dealing with the unnatural heat
The sun/boiled the oranges into rust & the birds grew gills to swim/the heat. How many twirling fans died that year when we/gathered swollen leaves from sun baked drains? Even the/air conditioning breathed like a bloated river.
I remember in high school, explaining to friends/the racism of the cartoon, Speedy Gonzales. His/”arriba, arriba” grito just a Chicano shuck and jive./His campesino hat too big for even the sombrero dance.
They held such strength/I felt that I could fly/so I leapt/knowing the ripcord safety net belay were in place/Until they weren’t
Mofongo, A Sensory Memory
No matter the efforts of the/Spanish to erase the Boricuas/to whiten them via colonialism/mofongo, pasteles, and the/countless dishes are additions/to our culture and proof otherwise.
Billie Holiday’s Deathbed
Who are these men that know nothing/about the blues? Inspiring jinxed history/with officious ink–corrections bled red/outside the margins, ignored or overcome–/their shared voice, warning: Be more like me.
Doña Maria is/the despenadora, the one who/takes care of the suffering./La que quita penas.
A Song for Grandmother: Daughters of Hoodoo
Can you see them/Those wide women/Wide like the earth/Dressed always in white/Ready soldiers of love
Once Was Black
Black shuns not in the respect of one another/It forgot the struggles of the previous generations./It isn’t unity anymore, everyone for yourself./Safe to say, once we were Black.
Black man you are on your own/In your own unmarked unknown grave/In your own land you do not own/With your own hands you own but lend to owners
How John Coltrane Learned to Play Jazz
Most people don’t know that when John Coltrane wrote “A Love Supreme,”/All he had to do was stargaze.
The Sympathy Orchestra
Conduct yourself with vigilance;/play your own instrument;
commonwealth primer for the children of empire
commonwealth/common wealth/common weal/commonstealth/common steal
Control, prosecute, sanction
Xenophobia is naturalized,/rational,/no need for Le Pen,/Macron is in charge,/Darmanin is on the clock.