And Gwendolyn Brooks

Monday, July 16, 2018
There was a time—
I could not see constellation of stars, for
rooftop smoke burning from garbage-can
bonfires, could not discern rhythms sifting the
bottom of the Euphrates, for the black and
white Cadillac sirens of the NYPD, 
could no longer absorb sonnets
spiraling from flight paths of pigeons and
errant sparrows, or map the distillation of
comets among unlimited horizons of gray
skyscrapers, where I navigated the Chrysler 
Building on a hairpin of a bicycle
—narrowly avoiding fistfights
with rabid taxi cab drivers, ducking
steeples of Starbuck mega-churches and
flickering neon of the nonexistent tenderloin 
upwind from Cooper Union refugees 
trying to score something
psychedelic, from their potted, 
clotted corners between laps
at the New York Health & Racquet Club, 
chocolate avocado smoothies,
leather-crotched flamingo Speedos, so, 
so, it had to come,
maneuvering the hairpin, guitar-
strapped back, through mid
town traffic halted,
surrounded by 6 of New York’s FiNesT
circling humid air, bike 
shorts, hiding behind buildings, silent as cock
roaches, the revolvers: metal tourniquets
shellacked to bone of their hip,
stood there- a
simple brown girl, \ sobbing 
they prepared to im
pound my yellow bike with plastic flowers, I did not 
have ID, the six of them 
said, I ran
a red light they said, a white male cyclist
wedged against traffic, surprised by the cadre, 
a fanfare of blue, hesitated. They waved him &
his traffic infraction on, after minutes, let me leave
<w/ vague warning >
once disclosed, I waged to upper
east side academia in the Dalton pantry,
teach’ng Goodbye Liza Jane
to strawberry blond starlings. Happened to
not be the day for sing’ng One Love, on Malcolm X Blvd
with the young kings & queens of the
diaspora or I would still be standing one
footed, clutching mySelf, 
on Avenue of the Americas, 
lord, it---had to come.
But, really. The snow plow guys hot rod out
roads like kamikaze cowboys on sugar cane.
And the panda bears deep in the bamboo
garden in front of Harmony Rock N Roll Cafe
camouflaged in white.
A different country, a child 
of god, turning
mariposa, but some
times, if I hold to ear, the wisp 
of memory, just like a clam shell,
the pound of the sea brimming 
to escape its mollusk, can pin
point the faint return of bop,
bomba-beat of the lower eastside, 
Loisada-shimmering in her rhinestone/bangles &
sequins, in the diamond ring in her nose, in
her mermaid, slit-up-the-side, 
turquoise Don't mess wit ME-mothafucka,
where the spirit of Bimbo Rivas 
unfurled every urban makeshift flag
and the hydrangea queens, and supper club
cooks, screeched
ooooh, she did not even say that,
girl ya better sit yo 
lyin’ boriqua ass
I close my eyes, gusto of salt, fry pan 
to lips, through garlic rise of
night-y yo voy del salten a la boca,  
distilled rinse of I am,
your jump-into-the- mouth,
when Gavin and me 
sat on the sidewalk on Avenue B 
shook a jar of half and half, back &
forth, to see evolution of cream,
ergo, humanity manifesting physics of butter
you deep throated & taste of black orchid
petals on your tongue, playing tag the
poem, free styling like 2-year-old mystics
who’d just learned language, candle
light burning in a copper urn, 
at 2am, among the ashes, the primrose, when 
poetry ripened, fermenting on the
vine ready to be pulled from its teeth where
back then,
billy collins was just one of us, fierce finger
snapping feministas testifying at the
committee of the Meow Mix Reading Series at
the Pussy Cat Lounge, and it wasn’t only
tabooed black lips ticked Riot Grrrls 
deconstructing original vulva prose,
and Gwendolyn Brooks,
rare as bowed psaltery, at the Nuyorican
Poet’s Café, ignored by Diggable-Planet
wannabes, bragging faux porkpie hats,
bear-claw coats & thrift store acid-washed jeans.
stepped onto\ bare stage faded n time & bombast oratory
unnoticed in dark shoes, non-descript skirt
to knees, short-cropped iron hair 
reflected gossamer of flame, Gavin and me, ducked 
our heads, tensed for hoots we could 
never see what the crowd saw
pas tout là
an elderly colored woman, less than ordinary, 
some black kid's black grandma, die-cast from
vortex, a countenance of howling dogs & beaten 
trees misinterpreted as a smile
stamped on red and yellow card
board boxes of pancake-waffle 
mix; up the step to stage, among the chain
smoking, meta glitterati of tissue-cut
butterflies, barely chrysalids spinning 
in the presence of monarchy until Gwendolyn
Brooks opened her mouth and spat
ferocious red syllables; roman-candled 
the opening chimes of Ballad of Pearl May Lee.
and not one word not one word, her body
rocked in trance, stage vibrated, 
ground moved, hips conjure
a sway, la poetess, the lyric obeah broke
into unhinged gospel, the café rose in one
scream, a primal hallelujah, earth
soaked as if we’d baptized her aura
with all we had, cat piss, lump of coal, keg of 
paper chitterlings, butter
flies’ color run with water, brush color, 
exalting te deum & kyries, in excelsis deo,
a latent hosanna at her ankle, I wept onto Gavin’s shoulder,
crown of his head deepened, cow-necked before
Brook-'s’ catechism cat-calls & water-wine Saturday of souls:
You should have heard me at my house.
I cut my lungs with my laughter,
I cut my lungs with my laughter.
Where is your Brooklyn now, o who will remain sane, who saw
spoken mandala amalgamate space, who separated & peppered goats
from tares of wheat, yes, bop on water, yes, kumbayaaed, o ye, kumbayaless,
defy iambic reference, can I get a witness, shockabukued grits from stale namastes.
Thou American Shame. You are a heart 
break, every poet’s café, complicit.  don’t just apologize:
admit yr shit is raggedy.
But her sonata. 
Her Zimbabwe. Paper-bagged soothsaying winos & saxophones lifted,
up the ceiling to reveal new indigo, distant & succulent
truths, timbales, congas, talking drums smashed open
de facto mausoleums, coffins in the African burial crypt,
mbira-thumbing skeletons battered 5thAvenue silk trees 
amid brutal Tommy Hilfiger statuettes
w/ picket signs demanding transparency, 
accuracy for the deceased, 
stir tarot, paint a Ouija, 
throw the crow bones, every corpse & cowrie rise.
And the Reverend Pedro Pietri dimmed in the
husk of the Big Bear, grew to the shadow and
dimensions of giants—filled the sky with his
great Pancho Villa cloak, where ravens
darkened the moon
on the eve of his death,
  but not before he bent his hat to my shoulder,
  asked to share my two-dollar bottle of wine, his
  eyes soft, twirling an imaginary bloody tampon
  that took wing from his poems.
Monday, July 16, 2018