In Service of Staying Alive

I need you to know that all I have left are my most plain words.
I need you to know I’ve been crying for months, honestly
for years. I know my heart, was once a wild happy animal.
It is broken. More and more easily I cry, sob, weep, bawl.
On the train I read science fiction and murder mysteries
when I can no longer read poetry. More times than I count
I have cried, almost to the point of hysterics, at the compassion
fictional characters express for the dead
                             more times than I can count.
People on the Q or F or the LIRR must think I’m the crazy
weeping woman. I cry at the television, when I’m cooking,
if I should make the mistake of reading the news. This weekend
I sobbed in a bar at the bloodletting of my Facebook feed.
I cry at my lover’s photos of young black men carrying their sons.
I cry when my sister or my best friend send me videos
of their beautiful brown daughters. I pray. I pray harder now
than I ever did as a child (and I once suggested to God
I’d become a nun if I could just go to school at Holy Name Convent).

I need to tell you that I panic pray. I shower pray. I nightmare pray.
I have nightmares full of desperation and epic urban flight.
If my sister calls too early in the morning I worry
something has happened to one of my brothers.
             I am afraid to answer the telephone.

My body hurts. I hold all of this and so much more inside it;
in my lower back, in my shoulders, in my blood, in my legs,
in my head, in my fists. I hurt and I sleep. Or at least-
sometimes I stay perfectly motionless, immobilized by grief
and fear and horror and doubt and dismay and rage.
I am particularly immobilized by my rage.
I know how it would look if I ever began moving,
sure and swift and cruel, under its impetus.

But I can’t stay still or silent and hope to survive.

What I have been describing is racism-induced depression
and a specific kind of life-long lived trauma stress disorder.
Still I am determined we will live, black, brown, and colored
so brilliantly. I am determined
all we other of color or body or gender will dance and sing
and live lives without fear.

And oh, America, can you honestly believe we would
keep weighing your comfort against our survival? I think you know.
These days are the last, the very last of those days.

These are the days for telling your one girl who is always
making, shaping, driving, working for the greater good
she better take a nap, drink a bottle of water and sing a song
of herself. These are the days for telling your brother
that he is a wonder and he must survive to be not just safe
but also happy. These are days when all your work must be
for their joy, for their safety. This is an imperative.
Telling the people you love how you love them and why
you love them, as a specific point of fact, in all your interactions
is an imperative.

Checking yourself out ten times a day to find where it hurts
and breathe that ache away is a goddamn imperative. Making
as much contact as you can with your tribe will save your life.
Making love with your love will save your life. Making bubbles
with your niece, stopping to sing her a song, will save your life.
Making a meal for friends will save your life. Making poems
about any of these things will prove to you and the rest
of this planet that you are still here, breathing fighting
to stay alive.

We are here. I needed to say this out loud too. I need to say it
daily, when the grief swims in on me. We are stunning
on our back porches, our front stoops, at our dinner tables.
I say we gather in joy at our masjids, our churches, our brunches,
our dance parties. I need you all to know that: we will persist.
I say rise up and surge into the streets and museums,
the schools and theatres and raise your voices in every possible way
until ours is the only voice they can hear no matter where they turn.
I say we turn up the tables in the marketplaces, roll our tongues,
ululate our throats, and laugh with our whole bodies
as we make ridiculous love. I am begging you to make laughing,
ridiculous love. I say we sweat glory.

And still after all of this, I beg you to remember that we are in danger,
but we are not endangered. Remember that I search you out,
a diaspora of brilliantly colored brothers and sisters and I see you
in your plumed and beautiful and othered bodies. I panic pray for you.
I sing your name. I count on you every day and every day you
come through for me. I stand for you.
                                                                 I know your name.
I will say your name while you are still alive. Do not be still
or silent unless you need to be.
I love you.
Stay alive.

Silence Will Not Protect Us

“For many of us at The Offing, #BlackLivesMatter isn’t just a matter of principle. It is a matter of life and death...”

To Black Girls Everywhere

“There are letters to us about finding things and people, about how to lose other things and other people. There are books to us, prayers to us, for us.”

My Revolutionary Suicide Note

“This is the suicide note. / I have been writing it a long time. In the quiet place. The lower left side of my brain.”