Kinfolks


Here in the United States
                 African-hyphenated-American means
we ourselves
are part of the problem we're trying to solve

though we have fought large  & we won't forget 

When we look at where we come from
it's still not nowhere  nor has it been
                                  forgiven  (only umbrage
undulating between two fixed points)  
                                 : the wingspans of our dead  
                                          their desiccated bones  
bearing the evidence of our burdened weight 

                                     *** 

Survival instinct    
               : we turn ourselves into smaller targets  
                                    : false markers for change
when nothing has really changed  

                                     *** 

From the iron treacheries of slavery
to the desperate pride of Obama-nation                          
                        : the red gnaw of disappointment
rough in the distant glitter
            of the January sun

                                     *** 

                    The din we've dropped into  despite
we revel in our kinked & 
matted hair  our curved statures  & melanin-
                                                      tinted skin
                                        A voice
                      not unlike our own  (interwoven in
hoodoo smoke  : the past  the present  & 
                                                             the future)  
          reminding us of what we are to each other 

& we grow
into the slaughter
we were born for

 

 

Note: Italicized fragment from The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens. 

_____________________________________

 

The Alkali, Teviston, CA, 1974

 

a bad moon risen chain of feral
telegraphing their bloodlines & 
the cosmic exhale of stars
like priceless gems
scattered across the yawn
of a celestial-domed cerulean forever
vaults the landlocked port
to starboard simile of teeter & 
ocean pitched totter  
of Cadillacs & ‘73
Deuce & a Quarter
their headlights wolf-eyed glow beaming  
across a rutted expanse
of whiplash roller-coaster
ebb & flow into & 
out of sinkhole ruts
through the alkali-salted
hunter’s moon haze of dust &
spectral tumbleweeds
amassed to midnight country vigil  
soldiering through trial & 
tribulation to
where the Blues
eviscerates the narrative
reading it backwards like gospel
to make it hemorrhage  
jook-joint blood & sweat & tears
onto a sawdust floor
the stumbling shouts
steeped in Johnnie Walker Red
wanting to let go
eroding gears
grinding gracefully
daring to make redemption
of the blade
shoved into their hearts 

 

 

Note: I grew up in Teviston, CA, which was a poor black migrant workers area south of Pixley, CA. The area was populated by a majority of black migrant workers, and their descendents, who had fled the Dust Bowl areas of the Great Depression. The Alkali, the part of the community so-named because of the alkaline consistency of the soil in this area, was vastly depleted by over-farming, just as in the Dust Bowl areas of 1930s America. “The Alkali” was also the name given the jook-joint about half a mile from my home. It was smack dab in the middle of an aproximately one sqaure mile area of fine-ground alkali, tumbleweeds, and potholes that were rumored to have swallowed grown men and their automobiles whole.

 

 

 

________________________________________

henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words in fire to awaken the world ablaze: free verse that breaks a rule every day, illuminated by his affinity for disobedience, a phoenix-flux of red & gold immolation that blazes from his heart, like a chambered bullet exploded through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, he has self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and is currently working on a book of connected short stories. His work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by LAROLA.