POEM IN WHICH I AM TOO POLITICAL TO READ AT YOUR SCHOOL
A rose, single, silent, and soft, opens—
red petals tender, innocent, fragrant.
What beauty! How holy! Peace, unbroken
in the rose’s solid stem. O, ancient
wonder, rose of unsullied joy, I sing
to the majesty of your sun-loved face—
your color so pure, petal fine as wing,
leaf’s thin veins a natural puzzle of lace.
Even your thorns are worthy of my praise,
their spikes but soldiers keeping you from harm,
a stab could set my fingers all ablaze,
but still your grace would silence all alarm—
except the rose was black and you killed it, black and you silenced it, black and you raped it, black and it could not vote, black and it got in the wrong garden so you had to use pesticide, had to poison its water and all the little black rose babies, had to stop teaching it to read, it was black so you pulled it up by the roots with a knife shaped just like America, just like the government, just like white Jesus, just like your mouth leaking bless your heart, you severed its roots and you chewed them whole and you smiled as it withered, searching for home.
SONNET FOR THE MAN SCREAMING HIMSELF INTO EXISTENCE AT BELLEVUE ER
By now, I can’t speak, and even though I know I
won’t die here, I can’t be sure. Neon’s coming up in the bucket I
balance on my thighs. By now, I can’t speak, I
open my mouth and a fist comes up to punch me silent. I
am in and out of my head, my body. I
can see the other patients, see a man whose feet are seeping out in sores, I
hear him refuse the IV, refuse this diabetes diagnosis, I
see the way life dangles itself in front of him like a bowl of deadly candy, I
see his eyes and their wild wild glow. The man in the next cot screams I
I I I I I I I I
as if to say, I am a man and a man deserves life, I
am a man who had a mother, I’ve known more than this blood seeping from my lips, I
have smiled the same smile you did when the rain cooled off a steamy summer day, I
have these rights if that’s all I have. I have more than the right to die.