Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ode to the man who leaned out the truck to call me nigger

That night I hadn’t yet considered death.
Before I met you; before you leaned out
the truck window to call me nigger, I knew
nothing of my own flesh’s surrender
to blood, dust. But I did know speed; I knew
the weight of lumber and the forearm’s debt
to torque. I knew (and loved) the sound of shatter-
ing glass, the quick snap of a duressed jaw.
I knew the taste of my own blood. I’d had
a fist, test the tension of my kneecaps,
my heart’s tight buckle.

What you taught me, as I leaned out
the window; New York speeding by
at 50mph to catch you,
was about the song of the air
at night, how – as I braced my foot
against the dash, & limbo’d out
to swing at your windscreen – I craved
the tympani of glass & metal
the soprano of your screams.

So easily I could have fallen
under your truck’s wheels. I was
in search of love and somehow
knew you had it to give in blood,
which I needed to husband
my quiet, quiet rage. I had
not thought then about how I wanted
my body disposed, that I loved
a woman to call me names in bed.
I wanted a song that was mine,
something to belong to, a love
I’d recognize when I heard
my name sung
in the street.

Ode to the man who grabbed my arm in the bar
(for Patrick)

When you leaned in and made the decision
to grab my arm, you did not know
the cautionary tale you would become.
You’d left work earlier, for a few drinks
with friends, and soon you were bar-hopping,
and drunk, and happy, and a little in love.
When you finally looked up, and your boy said
yeah, Bar 13 has 2 for 1 specials
and your girl said awesome! You did not know
we misfits would be reading poems,
some of them terrible, but so necessary
to us that we couldn’t stop even when
we knew they were bad. You did not know
how necessary you were (are)
to everything I’ve come to believe
and to much that I’m trying to unlearn.
You were loud, yes sir, and you were rude
and you did not know how willing I was
to forgive all this, because you did not know
you required forgiveness. You did not know
you were not allowed every right
you chose to claim and so you leaned in
drunk, to grab a man 40lbs heavier
and 3 inches taller; and when my hand
pried itself away and made short journey
to your head, I was as surprised as you
to see you actually fall-
the slow-motion tumble of it.

You did not know when you left work
that you’d be struck down (ever).
You had not considered that
even remotely possible
& neither you nor your friend knew
how willing I became then to fight
your entire crew – even the women.
I wanted the ballet of all of you
come to me – I wanted you
to draw blood to my mouth,
to remind me how close to love-
making is the wrestle, have me
believe in gladiators, gargoyles
and the night again.

Small man, you could not know
that I cried after I hit you
that I’ve always wished myself
beyond the tribe of blood, dirt
and immediate consequence –
but you, you brought me back –
you thought you could put your hands
on anyone you felt like, and I
had to remind you otherwise,
as I slipped out the back door,
to avoid the cops, who surely
would see it your way;
and take my chance instead,
with my body, my fists,
my good two legs running;
knowing I could trust only
my hands’ self-made laws,
the shadows the buildings make
of the city – the night
for me to hide in.



Blogger Strategic Stiletto said...

The fight in the external, a snapshot of the fight in the internal. Nicely v nicely.

4:23 PM  

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