Poetry by Alex Jennings
I saw you standing by the hearth–
Your buckled leather shoes
The stern cut of your coat
Colorless hair gathered back
With ribbon. Spilled my morning
Tea. I burned my own wrist. Cried
Out in the dim of morning. And as
The scripture says, “…And then he was not.”
Wordless shock and your wrinkled
Sleeve. Wide quiet eyes. An optical
Illusion or a glimpse through the fiction of
Time. You knew free blacks. Households
Riven by bondage. Are you concerned
By a bath-robed Negro pacing
Through the house feeding himself from
The icebox? Then shapes in unmet space.
Your bloody hands. Stolen bodies
Lashed one to another, into submission.
Discolored wounds, festering infection.
The flux shits. Chains and chains of
Men and women drowned and sea gardens
Of thronged bodies enough to populate Atlantis
Open-mouthed silent, staring to the surface
Scream and scream as scavengers gorge.
A low-tide reek. The hatred, grasping
Hatred acid-stench, the cut-meat smell
Rising from the stripes that cling to us
Even as you watch me watch you. My
Grandma prayed “by His stripes, we are
Healed,” but by what stripes do we
Sicken and hurt down generations?
Not metaphor; you are a vision.
Marble-solid phantom. Freed from
Stone or imprisoned by wood and plaster
Drywall. Your voice has never extended
Past ear-shot? We are trapped and bound
Like boated cargo. And the balance sheet?
On balance—shit—who holds the hammer
matters, but not that one. That one. Not that we
care, surrounded by revenants, dragging
Us into a mass grave and the Convention
Center will house dying ventilated bodies.
Soon “so poor, so black,” “so rich, so white…”
But all lives matter. Or how old is fourteen?
How old is fourteen? What are they wearing?
Are they hooded? Toy guns. Cell phones.
In the backyard, in the home. In the rear
Seat of a cruiser. Do they grasp packs of
Skittles or bottled tea? Is a hawk a handsaw?
But is it, though? Kanye is our Hamlet in
The tragedy of blackness. The prince we
Paid for beats and fashion. Hat red as crime.
His mother, you know. The in-laws reality.
North by Northwest or Ye by West West.
Don’t sing at the table. An Illuminati full
Of black entertainers, naturally. Well!
Panic stalks city streets because the worst
White man is better than the best black
And a plague is loose. A plague is loose.
Kill my landlord. Kill my landlord. C-I-L-L—
Please don’t ask me what it takes to set
Aside anger. Please don’t inquire as to my
Spiritual health. Look to your own nutrition
Stop eating poison to sicken me. Stop eating.
Mine die and yours die– almost
as if there is no belonging. Never.
That’s Socialism. No better than the Nazis
Or some very fine people. Both sides
Done wrong. You make me like this you
Make me beat you. What’s love? What’s
Love got on Sonny and Cher are you skiing
Yet? Look out. Look out. He casts a shadow.
Look at the way he Treats business. Look
what he’s done to energy production.
Shut down the Gulf. Shut the golf unless
By Easter, well suicide will bloom bouquets
of poisoned roses and the Economy. The
Dow again. It can run without us. You can
oil it without our blood and yours.
Get out of my house. Get out get out.
Get out of my house. Get
Born in Wiesbaden (Germany), Alex Jennings has lived in Gaborone (Botswana), Paramaribo (Surinam), and Tunis (Tunisia) as well as the United States. He writes and edits for Rm. 220, teaches for Delgado Community College, and MCs a monthly literary readings series called Dogfish. He lives in Central City and doesn’t quite believe in ghosts. Check him out at alexjennings.net
Mitchell Klein is based in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been making art since he was 8. Klein is also a prolific digital artist, having created thousands of pieces, and often combines digital and real-world art techniques into unique multimedia creations. Klein is active in New Orleans art community and is an owner/manager of NOLA Rampart Gallery, located in The French Quarter.