Four Poems

name/brand

on a windy day breaking
those hottest Midwestern months

 

where most everything is
wishing for death

 

or winter, a single dried petal
from that little blue flower

 

with a cute colloquial name,
shrunk beyond its living

 

weight and crumbled a bit
on its edges, falls

 

from somewhere that is not
knowable to the backseat of your car

 

in a park, the kind with trees
and paths but not a path

 

through the trees, surrounded
by city and city

 

and suburb and trees and
something catches your eyes

 

in the sparse canopy. your whole
body follows until one is

 

captured and catalogued
by a benevolent satellite employed of a science

 

repeating, “When’s the last time you heard Michael Brown?”

 

 

 

on my blue eyes in a hall of mirrors

 

every generation confronts the task of choosing its past.
 
            —Saidiya Hartman

condemned & exalted; tumult &
art; horizon & dancefloor; arrested
& passing; conjured & static; static
& static; static & unmagic; static &; static &
locomotion; static & arrested; static & refusal;
refusal & adjacent; & next door; & stacked
one on top of the other; no architecture
ever kept us closer & dancefloor; & beams;
beams & beams; beams & abundant; beams
above & the u-shaped hull; beams & oceans
not seen; beams & branches & beams
from branches; & being; & being
extinguished upwind; & beaten down-
stream from the extinguished; & beams;
& matchsticks; static & sulfur; measured
& traded; brilliance & seduction; & future
waiting in the wings; breathe & concrete;
scene & subjection; future & comedown;
cast & backstage; made-up & spot-
light; détente & searchlight; static &
blanching; static & suspect; scattered &
wretched; uplift & betrayal; & coal
from diamonds; & passing; & salvage;
martyr & scapegoat; martyr & shoulders; martyr
as survival & static; coerced &
confession; & boundary; & witness; condemned
& exalted; to dream & impossible; unbroken
& captured; unwritten & un-written &
static; drowning in horizon & dancefloor
as tumult & art & canvas, collision

 

 

 

We cannot weep, together

 

the idea
no one thought of where

 

all we have is everything
to lose by the same rules

 

as everyone else
defines these days

 

of change with in
these days of change—in a word,

 

silence. despite what you heard
[we are not made of brick]

 

few closures are complete
as the narrative ones. inside

 

this therapy of the past
tense palms scatter

 

where faces are stored
in a vision or someone

 

to believe it folded
between shoulders and rib

 

or hiding beneath
some prettier thing

 

like tendrils or sunset
where there is no closer

 

that’s not hurting, whirling,
& waltzing to the stupid music

 

we name the percussive
anxiety of just being

 

some way to die.
how many stars

 

must we possess before?
we are mistaken

 

for light, a clear sky
full of just your kind

 

of birds, drawn
with just one line.

 

 

You will pay for your osmosis
& it will make you smile

 

So many true things sound
fantastic when transposed
to the west, to our present,
to the soothing associations

 

we grant the English language
the heroic civility of our
frustration, calls to action
patiently waiting a generation

 

to monetize them, to our catch
phrases masquerading as
vernacular, to our tshirts,
all our fucking tshirts, stiff

 

black text over white
cotton or black behind
softer white words, the way
labor is spelled the same

 

whether it comes before
power or camp, if not
to our mutiny at least
to our comfort where

 

there is time to memorize
our refrain: am I making
something or am I reiterating
the idea of myself. We are

 

chanting just below mutual
recognition so that “we”
cannot hear another’s
effacements never meant

 

for answers but to lay bare
better questions. We’ll never
grow big and strong or
tender or mild without

 

learning to appreciate what
we can’t understand:

 

the object cannot explain
the walls built around her

 

even as they wilt against
the grease on our fingers

 

toward an irreparable humanity
now too powerful to resist

 

now recognizable as the same
boots they have always been

 

When you meet the hologram
and give it a name you lose

 

faith in everything but the optimism
of writing ourselves in human

 

 

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Isaac Pickell

Isaac Pickell is a mixed poet and PhD student at Wayne State University in Detroit, where his work focuses on the borderlands of blackness and black literature. His chapbook everything saved will be last is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, and recent work can be found in Black Warrior Review, Fence, Ninth Letter, and Sixth Finch. Isaac has taken a seat in all fifty states and has so much to look forward to.