THE FOLLOWING IS one of six pieces by former Emerging Poets fellows at Poets House in New York City. Each of the pieces engages with the Poetry Coalition’s 2018 initiative, “Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body.” Poets House invited the fellows to select five items from the House’s 70,000-volume library that address the theme of the body, and to write a paragraph or two on each of these items.
Enucleation or Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid
May books be the vaccination to cure all intolerance. To articulate imagination is immunization of stagnant thought. What is ignorance if not an infection of joy? Joy, be it so every Poets House is a hospital of the healing stanza. As if your favorite sentence line-broke its arm in the playground of your mind. Each poem someone’s infirmary meant to hijack the hippocampus, reading “Amazing Grace” then hearing the body whisper its water through tear ducts built to detox the words left sweet in the life of — why call it a body of work if not to save the body of man?
Fingers, Toes, Teeth + Bones
Toes have bones + intricate souls, now watch me walk on teeth-colored paper. These coffee-skinned fingers fractured in Freedom’s penmanship, elongated epigraphs, sitting on a talking shelf, hallway-long quarter mile of new journals to chapbook stacks at the back. Black ink sweats knowledge from Papyrus pours. The best line in any poem is the one that paper cuts your gut. Imagine Seibles’s Fast Animal is only one drop of blood mapped over an intimate sop of gauze + we are trying to read this palpable DNA? Physical the psyche trying to become a lexicon of words worth etching onto collarbone, light as the language of birds, thousands of multicolored spines, stacked neat + heavy as fingers forming a fist.
What? Huh? Them is Different Hours
What you say to us now, the ones you called unread, uncivilized, un-understood, come run with a Panther & the Lash, the New Black, A Good Cry, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude built of Black Girl Magic. We been stuffing books in-between the shelves of our ribcage. What a diaphragm of dialogue we carry in the dark of our disenfranchised. Diaspora of toiled earth, unearth birth seen us now Olio in fashion, nude mouth, speak that unshackled creole don’t harass the intellect of a hornet’s nest. We get busy with this breath of beehives. We be nature’s way of stitching God into the margins. Never be us marginalized, we say never more, never again.
The Gathering of My Name, that Neon Vernacular
Ocean, Mahogany, Yusef, Cornelius, Claudia, Patricia, Aracelis, Etheridge, Evie, Nikki — consider the scent of names, given sanctuary up-out your chest cavity? I had no intention of being such a scrabble board of emotions. Something about the first name of these poets who helped me recognize my voice, Immigrant now Citizen, blk + above ground, West Indian anthology of joy. As a child I would chew tiny bits of notepad pages. As a noun called man I have found a better place to store the taste of written wisdom. Here is a space dedicated to un-lonely-ing the inner self. Brutal Imagination was an undiscovered burial ground, I Middle America’d in + how else would I learn I was thought so invisible I sleep within the fear of — his skin did it — just look at him, that book blk, with no need for a name.
O, little breath of oblivion Or
How We Black Godiva
Over a bullet at a Traffic Stop?
After Jive Poetic
on hot lead, daughter
in the backseat watching papa ooze
outta breath till eyes genuflect
How she trust a black man now?
She dun seen a buck die right in front
her face, she
gonna marry a white man
that reminds her of daddy’s grace
without a dancing death sentence
kissing his ribs.
America without black death is:
White House no Foundation
Ribcage no Spine
Jails no Overcrowding
Sunday no Easter Clothes
Music no Jazz
Blues no Rhythm
Chains no Restraint
Babies no Coffins
Basketball no Prophets
Criminal no Conviction
Ngh u bttr tlk like water, cuz weed make u sound like syrup,
+ murder ain’t nvr needed nothg but a badge to call itself justice.
Rico Frederick is a graphic designer and the author of the book Broken Calypsonian(Penmanship Books, 2014), Poets House Emerging Poets Fellow, Cave Canem Fellow, a MFA candidate at the Pratt Institute and the first poet to represent all four original New York City poetry venues at the National Poetry Slam.