Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Year We Burst Into Flame - first draft

The year we burst into flame

How many rivers do we have to cross
Before we can talk to the boss?
All we have it seems we have lost
We must have really paid the cost

That’s why we gonna be Burnin’ and a Lootin’ tonight…
                                                            Bob Marley – Burnin’ and Lootin’

The boys are fire – voices hoarse. They are made
of flint and ink – shirtless.  Above their waists
the legend of Polo or Calvin Klein or plaid boxers
tell only one of the stories we are willing to hear
and network news willing to tell
above the jeans clenched just below their behinds.

Mang I came out here to come up
on a new TV or sumpn. Den dese
niggas start talkin’ bout Mike – laying
there in the street, and I start thinkin’
bout my cousin, and all my niggas
and I see how dese po-lease tryna do us
and I get mad G!

St. Louis is burning and the boys are catching
teargas canisters and lobbing them back.
Sometimes the acid heat tears the cover
off their palms.  Sometimes they catch
them in their jerseys – and their rough-inked
skins unfurl like canvasses for the ill thud
of rubber bullets

Mang we don’t care – dis Darren Wilson nigga
gotta come tell ME sumpn befo we get on up
off dese streets.  Dese cracker-ass po-lice
cant fuck wit dis.  Dis St Louis mang. We
ain’t goin home till he convicted!

On Canfield Road, the memorial is made
of lit candles, teddy bears, Mike Brown
in spray paint down the middle of the narrow
street.  Poems, posters, books, roses, roses, roses
run 20 feet down the yellow line and Mike’s
body ghosts itself right there in the middle
of the street, almost as large as the grand jury
says he is 2 months later, exact size Wilson
claims the monstrous black boy to be
so he had to shoot him, had to shoot him
would do it the same way all over again,
he says…

I’m tryna tell you, they killin us anyway.
We dyin anyway. I don’t give NO fuck!
I hope we burn whole fuckin
St. Louis down if they gon do us like that!
Fuck tryna talk to dese poe-leece.
We aint going home nigga!

If a boy is black and tattooed with tears,
and says he is all out of tears - if you
are a man out of ways to tell him
how to overcome – if his eyes
are large and pleading and his heart
is hurt and his brain already alight –
if you spent a week in bed when
you heard the news because you
were tired of Trayvon and Jordan
and Rekia and Renisha’s names
in a news that tells us every lie
about how they once misstepped
in third grade – if you have your own
missteps you are praying on every
day and a child you want to live
but aren’t sure how to protect – if
the ink on your own skin is a story
of how the flesh must burn and be
reborn – if you were once a phoenix –
if you have to be a phoenix again –
if  your body already knows
Acai Gurley’s name or Tamir Rice’s
even though they haven’t yet fallen
in Brooklyn stairwell or Cleveland
playground, but you are absolutely sure
their bodies are plummeting down down –
if the boys are bandannas and dreadlocks
and thin sinewy bodies made of the
black bark of nightsticks – if the boys
are bullet-wounded – if the girls
are a playground of rubber bullet
divots – if the girls wont get out
the streets with their babies – if they’re
crying for their babies’ daddies in the streets
too and all their children have your daughter’s
high shriek – if you feel like you can’t breathe –
if the police turn their backs on your city
and their guns toward it – if cops half
your age talk to you like you’re a child –
if your students think that a pleasant
interaction with police is if they don’t die
even if they’ve had a gun shoved in their mouths –
if they’ve been beat up in the back of a squad car –
if they’ve been dropped off in Bridgeport
in the middle of the night - if a woman
you once made love to says what about all the police
who die? What if she says you’re educated
you don’t have to worry about that.
What if you’re already teaching your daughter
several songs of invisibility for when
a squad car rolls up? What if
you can already taste the blood
pooling on the inside of your cheek?
What if your body is a bottle filled
with kerosene, your tongue a wick?

You give yourself over to the children

You follow their lead

You throw your head back

You burst into flames

(for Lost Voices)

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email


Blogger MoxieBee said...

Roger...this poem...devastating and breathless, soul-cracking and necessary. Thank you for doing this work. I was going to include a quote here, but I can't include all that flew off the page to maim and enrich my heart.

7:25 PM  

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