on race, piss, blood, and love

22 Dec


it is not a knot in your throat
it is my throat and it is a lump though it doesn’t feel
dry, or tumorous, or hollow—it is jittery,
prickling, ants swarming on a sugary clot
Washtenaw, Warsaw, warzones… kiddie pools:
ad hoc swimming areas in the street when
it’s warm enough to open up the hydrants
it’s as if the pressure mounting
all around us, in our schools and housing complexes
and our very brains, its veins, the gray drippings
poured off our sentience, as if the pressure has a
more than apt metaphor: “the gusher.”
that shared release—one speeding away
the gusher inside him,
internal flood of terror and life and nearly the same
sugary shakes I feel in my throat,
he feels good and at peace
is that peace? it’s like pissing his pants
but good, like pissing his pants but
normal, or not normal—unique and fleeting,
he’s lucky to be the one—
the other’s gusher is less ambiguous, a fire hydrant
for a chest, filling the street, inviting the kids’
usual summertime shrieks
the noise mopping up the screams
of the nine year old—it is a nine year old
with the hole in her body and it is not her
chest but her leg
and that is not peace the first feels, but piss
it is the piss that has poisoned him
turned his blood rancid and his honor
villainous, his vigor wasted and his values
shot to hell
it was given to him
the piss, from his father’s catheter to his
bedroom IV, a series of tubes that is preserved
long after his father’s cell becomes a grave
it was given to him but he feeds it
too, turns to it, thrives on it, drinks it
it is his liquor and his chaser both
fighting fire with fire in a throat long cauterized
nothing to cool the heat except the now-cold
blood in the grass, which perishes as it
leaves her body, worthless outside its
container and dead
dead like yeast left out too long


I think of death
of bullets entering various parts of me
when I take Washtenaw home
a few blocks from the bus stop, ever
since the Pathfinder-sun-roof-nine-year-old-
crossfire story, the one we pulled up into
one night, just as the medics, ever stoic,
slid her into the ambulance, like a baker
sliding a loaf of bread into an oven
I get spooked
by camera flashes behind papered-over
third-story windows, calm myself with
the christmas lights, which seem to dilute
the dark’s shares
and serve as insurance on our passive
hope for eternal—ever-revolving—life
the cheerful naivete we foster for the season


if there is a role for the average audience
member, in this city, in this time—
a time of new police strategies
and press conferences and crack—less than
before but better engineered—than perhaps it
is to discourage the nod to this crafty
construct, this hyper-reality that supposes
much that cannot be verified
because the lump in my throat is just the
residual discomfort of my off-brand cold medicine
and “gangbangers”—those piss-blooded, failed
shits—on the corner
they’re not on the corner, they’re inside,
watching TV, eating TV dinners, and arguing
about something they saw on TV two
nights ago, occasionally, in rare moments
of quiet, they individually, secretly hatch
plans of how to build a better life
even as they invent excuses to get out it
the responsibility of trying
the one driving away, looking for something to fill
his night, just one in a million of the same
boring tessellation, looking for
something to give meaning to the
playful shrieks of summer
and the dreary monotony of winter
all the changes and all the
stay the sames
I ask him, is it possible it’s not out there,
but in here? and then realize
of course he’s thought of that—
not all his blood is piss, not all his brain
scrap metal pawned from one
hand to the other, not all his good
ungerminated seeds, infertile flukes
that won’t take
they will, we just need better soil
any soil won’t do, and we need resolve
and soul, we need people like me
and people like him to meet and not forget
we need a lot—we don’t have any
idea how much

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